The Greatest Country On Earth
(MIN-JUN walks into his small apartment, visibly tired after a day of work. He sighs, takes off his jacket, and walks over to a small desk in the corner of his room. He picks up a small, foam, earth-shaped stress ball, and moves it around in his hand. He walks over to his bed and sits down on the edge of it. He continues to fiddle with the ball.)
I used to think I was living in the greatest country on Earth. A “worker’s paradise”, with beautiful monuments, and the finest art. I used to think that we were ahead. That our people were more intelligent than the rest of the world, because of what we watch and read – history books, mostly. I used to think that I would not want to ever be anywhere else but North Korea, that the rest of the world was useless to me. I did, genuinely, wholeheartedly believe in the legacy of our leaders. But that was all before I knew anything real about the outside world.
(Looks up periodically to audience while talking.)
I got this little thing from an American visitor, trying to learn more about our life here. His efforts were in vain; we did the same thing we do to every foreigner. I had to “show him around the country,” even though I was only allowed to take him to expensive restaurants and our best monuments–the only part of the real North Korea he saw was out bus windows. I am sure to most of you, this little toy would be a throwaway, insignificant after a day or two of possession. But to me, it is a symbol of everything I could know, and everything I help the government to hide.
Ever since I was a young man of 20, I have been working as a government minder–essentially, this means I am to monitor a foreign visitor at all times when they are visiting our country. This goes as far as leaving my hotel room’s door open just so I can see if they try to leave. Originally, I felt honored to be a part of such a wonderful government. But slowly, over the years, I began to realize how fake our country’s image was.
While my job does pay well, and helps me to meet interesting people, I can’t help but be reminded every day of the terrible and oppressive conditions that I help to enforce in our country. I know I might sound like I am complaining, but every day, I must sit with the fact that our country’s citizens think that they are becoming cultured when they go to the library and watch the select few Russian Communist movies and Military Propaganda videos that they are allowed to watch, but they’re about 40 years behind. If I knew as little as they do, or as little as I used to, I would be completely and wholly devoted to my country. But knowing that if I leave my job I will most likely lose my apartment, but staying there is just such a cruel betrayal towards my country’s people...it just...it kills me inside. I feel like our government is a prison, and I’m just another cell door–not significant enough to change anything, but nevertheless helping the central goal of withholding cultural, intellectual, and global information from our people. Every day I think about it more and more...could this really ever be the greatest country on Earth?