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Ignorance is easier to manage

June 17, 2009 - Michael Palmer
North Korea and Iran have been in the news headlines recently. North Korea is the last Stalinist state on earth, and in October 2006 it became the latest country to join the nuclear club and now is testing missiles to launch these weapons at the world. Iran is in the news for having problems keeping their population under the thumb of dictatorship. It is interesting that North Korea does not have similar problems with their population. I believe the difference is technology.

Iran’s population has moved into the twenty-first century. The young men and women have cell phones, computers and Twitter. They have seen the Western culture, our freedoms and they are beginning to embrace the ways of the great satan.

North and South Korea have been separated at the 38th parallel ever since the Korean War (1950-1953), which has never officially ended. In the ensuing ‘ceasefire’, North Korea developed into a communist dictatorship with a centrally planned economy, while South Korea became a capitalist democracy with a free market economy.

Economic hardship in the officially ‘self-reliant’ North has led to mass starvation, while the South has a vibrant economy able to compete with the best of the world.

Due to the different economic results on either side of the Demilitarized Zone, the South dwarfs the North, not just numerically (50 vs. 27 million), but also economically and even size-wise. Another stark reminder of the different worlds both Koreas now inhabit, is this map, a picture of the night-time illumination on the Korean peninsula.

The metropolitan area of Seoul, the South’s capital, holds over 23 million people and is the second-largest metropolitan cluster on the planet (after Tokyo). Its huge lit-up area, close to the border with the North, is clearly visible from space. Other Southern cities, while quite a lot smaller than Seoul, are also clearly distinguishable on this satellite map, for example Gunsan on the western coast, directly below it the inland city of Gwangju, the cities of Masan and Busan on the southern coast, and several other smaller cities.

By contrast, the only speck of light north of the DMZ is the capital of Pyonyang, where Kim Jong-il lives with 3 million of his subjects. Iran is looking pretty bright at night in contrast.

So the message here is for the dictators of the world, electricity is BAD, light bulbs will illuminate the world and eliminate ignorance. Check out the world at night map on google earth or the NASA web pages, it is a pretty fascinating way to waste some time.


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