Be Skeptical

July 14, 2021

Imagine being in North Korea. How skeptical would you be of what you witness every day? Is the Kim family's rule divine? Is South Korea evil due to American influence? Could people possibly be grateful for this dictatorship?

2021 07 15

Understanding life in North Korea becomes easier after watching interviews with defectors like Park Yeon-mi. Her book "To Live" describes the abysmal conditions in the country. While you might already be aware that North Korea is a challenging place to live, comprehending the extent of its hardships based solely on facts and figures is difficult.

Living in the developed world provides a completely different perspective. It’s important to realize that North Korea lacks basic freedoms, such as electricity, freedom of speech, and press freedom. One needs compassion to truly grasp the plight of North Koreans.

If you were born in such a restricted environment, would you question this parallel universe? I hope not, because questioning the legitimacy of the Kim family's rule could lead to severe consequences, including imprisonment for you, your family, and future generations.

What would happen if you started wondering why China, just across the river, always seems bright while North Korea is submerged in darkness? Merely expressing such thoughts could be dangerous. You might be reported to the secret police by friends or neighbors, especially if you were caught consuming foreign media. The result could be years in prison.

Being skeptical and thinking about how to sell products at a higher price—essentially thinking like a capitalist—could be considered a violation of communist beliefs. Since all property is state-owned, even your act of selling is illegal. Shockingly, even your waste is considered state property, to be used as fertilizer.

If you found yourself in such circumstances and chose to be skeptical, escaping might cross your mind. Although a tough decision, it might be your only way to discover that much of what you've been taught is a lie. Words like "freedom," "democracy," and "bank accounts" would be entirely new concepts for you.

Even those fortunate enough to live in developed countries should remain skeptical. Question everything. Listen to multiple perspectives and change your views when the evidence warrants it. How do you know, for example, that the vaccine you’re getting is safe? Or that a piece of news you've read online is accurate? Fact-checking and evidence-seeking are essential.

Being open-minded is crucial. I’m always willing to change my beliefs in the face of new evidence. Knowledge is transient; what we knew yesterday might be proven wrong tomorrow. It’s essential to apply what we learn, not just to know it.

Let's say you go to a circus and watch a performer swallow a sword. Do you believe it’s real? While entertainment is one thing, reality is another. We need to adjust our mindset according to the situation and teach our children to do the same.

The North Korean regime wouldn't survive without assistance from the Chinese Communist Party, which indirectly contributes to the suffering of the North Korean people. Many citizens in China who subscribe to a distorted interpretation of history could benefit from skepticism. They might question their government's support for the North Korean regime or ponder alternative political structures.

The point of this article is not to debate what's right or wrong but to emphasize the importance of maintaining a skeptical mindset. We should teach future generations to think critically, to ask "why," to engage in debates, and to weigh the pros and cons of different viewpoints. Tyrannies and dictatorships don't allow such discussions; authority is never questioned, and history is rewritten by the victors.

In societies where political correctness dominates, opportunities for skepticism are limited. Open dialogue should be encouraged, even if the opinions are controversial. Ultimately, it all comes down to asking ourselves "Why?" This question equips us to face life's challenges more effectively. Being skeptical ensures that you are less likely to be deceived.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn