To avoid the fate of North Korea, we must learn to be critical of our own government

In extreme circumstances like a pandemic, governments often introduce regulations that promise a better quality of life for their citizens. The story of Yeonmi Park—a North Korean defector—provides great insight into the concepts of freedom and oppression by governments.

Through her book and interviews, Park describes the vast differences between North Korean and Western societies.

The supreme leader Kim Jong-Un is portrayed as a ‘god’ and the citizens of North Korea are fed propaganda in limited vocabulary, which narrows their thought process. For example, Park describes not knowing the concept of romantic love since love in North Korea was only to be directed to Kim Jong-Un.

Parallels can be drawn to George Orwell’s 1984, and the concept of ‘newspeak’, a condensed vocabulary that restricted thought

This demonstrates how oppressed people in North Korea are, compared to Canada, where mask mandates indoors are considered a form of oppression by some.

Some people are tired of COVID-19 and willing to give up certain freedoms, while others disapprove and question their government’s actions. While both perspectives are valid, we forget the choice between the two is a privilege. Many—like Park formerly—don't have the freedom to express their opinions or choose how they live.

We should exercise our freedom of speech to question harsher actions taken by the government. We should exercise our ability to question authority. For example, vaccine passports are being pushed on the Canadian public, but we should be wary of these, considering the government's history with sensitive data.

A recent story reported that theCanadian military surveying social media to collect data and test propaganda without informed consent during the pandemic. If the military sees COVID as an opportunity to test propaganda, citizens can’t be certain the new regulations aren’t similar experiments.

Vaccine mandates can also cause an unnecessary divide. In the US,the majority of unvaccinated persons are people of colour due to hesitancy and lack of easy access. Consequently, we can ask if it’s moral to only permit vaccinated people at certain venues, or force private businesses to follow such regulations.

Yeonmi Park describes how it only took three generations for North Korea to become a dictatorship. Hence, we should be skeptical of government regulations, especially when it invades our right to privacy.

While we can’t say who is right or wrong, we must practice critical thinking in our everyday lives, so we don’t end up in a society where we blindly follow people in power.

Dharmayu is a second-year Health Sciences student and The Journal’s Graphics Editor.

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