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In 1953, a DMZ (demilitarized zone) was established along the 38th Parallel as a way of dividing the two Koreas. Today, though they share the same peninsula, North and South Korea are completely different countries.

Fifty seven years after they were separated, little is known about what actually goes on inside the mysterious nation of North Korea. In a metaphorical and literal sense, the country remains in the dark. Ironically, South Korea has, over the past six decades, arguably become the most technically advanced country on earth. On a recent trip to South Korea's capital, Seoul, I was blown away by how gadget-ized the country is—far more so even than the United States. I visited smart apartment buildings where air conditioning can be activated by mobile device. Conversely, most buildings in North Korea are unlikely to have air conditioning, and those that do are interrupted by frequent power outages.

North Korea's dictatorial leader, Kim Jong Il, known as the Dear Leader, is viewed inside his country as the closest thing to God. He has total control over his people: He is worshipped. Dissent is not tolerated; doubt the Dear Leader, and you can die. It is estimated that thousands of North Koreans have lost their lives or been sent to labor gulags for not adhering to and/or questioning their government's leadership. It is a country ruled by fear and constant reminders that someone is watching. Kim's images, along with those of his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, are everywhere, including inside people's homes.

FROM: Held Captive for 140 Days: Lisa Ling's Sister Breaks Her Silence
Published on May 18, 2010

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