The Mirror of North Korean Human Rights

Technologies of Liberation, Technologies of War

Author: Christine Hong


Turning on the logic of the spectacle, U.S. – based campaigns on North Korean human rights, in calling for intervention, have wielded two images aimed at outing North Korea's "hidden truths": the image of the starving child circa the 1990s and the contemporary satellite image of what appear to be labor camps. Focusing on the use of online virtual geo-imagery programs like Google Earth in the human rights mapping of North Korea, this essay situates post-9/11 "liberation technology" within the framework of the unending Korean War, a war whose failed "liberation" of Korea from the global forces of communism haunts North Korean human rights critique today. By examining mid-century bomber photographs and contemporary human rights satellite images of North Korea, this essay inquires into the homology between technologies of militarized intelligence and war, on the one hand, and technologies of human rights that aim to expose North Korea, on the other. Both modes of apperception, this essay argues, strive to delegitimize and destroy rather than faithfully represent the enemy.

Regions: East Asia
Countries: Korea
Topics: Human Rights

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December 2013
© 2007 ILO/Crozet M.