The internet is a fun place. Cat videos galore, GIFs, jokes about tyrant dictators....
... wait, what?
For many people, the best way to deal with something horrific is to make a joke out of it. You see this when someone trips and laughs at themselves (I even do it when no-one is around). It's a great way to escape the horrific reality that is the world.
Charlie Chaplain famously makes a joke of Hitler in The Great Dictator (1940). The film was iconic for a number of reasons. It was the first time Chaplain spoke on film. But it was also the year that Nazi Germany started bombing Great Britain.
The film gave people an escape. It made the mighty smaller and helped craft the idea that evil could be defeated.
Laughing in the face of danger is important and must be allowed.
That being said, I feel the time of laughing at North Korea has come to an end.
Youtube is full of "top 10 funniest laws about DPRK (North Korea)", Team America made a laughing stock of the tyrant leader, The Interview (2014) famously mocked Kim Jong-un and Sony faced the fury of DPRK's hacker army.
However, on Tuesday we went to bed closer to nuclear war than we have been for some time.
Nuclear weapons aside, it's probably time to stop laughing at the prison state that is DPRK.
Just a few hours north of Seoul, one of the most affluent cities in the world, 24million people are held captive by an insolent child hellbent on maintaining and cementing his family's legacy as living gods.
An estimated 32% (7.6million men, women and children) are undernourished, the government appoints Jurys, and citizens can't travel between cities without permission.
Groups such as Human Rights Watch estimate that as many as 200,000 citizens are in forced-labour camps, with no medical care and little food. Refugees from the country tell stories of sexual assault, trauma to the uterus to prevent pregnancy, and children left to be eaten by dogs. We hear stories of tens of thousands forced to work overseas, with their wages going directly to the government. Countries that we know well, complicit in this slavery. Russia, China, Malaysia and even the EU member state Poland have been linked to the horrors along with developing African states. The government of DPRK practices 'collective punishment'. This policy means that your parents, spouses, grandparents can all be imprisoned in these camps for your crimes. Those who have fled the Prison-State often share that they are all too aware their families may be rotting in coal mines to power the despot leader's ambitions.
These are just the horrors we know of.
There are so few things about DPRK that should be considered a joke.
We laugh that their leader has a silly haircut and that people can only choose from a government mandated list. But when the wrong haircut can land you in trouble, in a state where execution by artillery is a thing, that joke soon becomes a nightmare.
President Donald Trump has threatened "fire and fury" against DPRK. In return, they have threatened the US and its territories in the Pacific. Right now, not only are millions starving and thousands dying in camps, but tens of millions are in the potential firing line of a nuclear grudge match. I have doubts that any conflict would go nuclear. But any conflict on the Korean Peninsula will create one of the largest humanitarian crisis' we've ever seen.
We know over seven million are already in need of nutrition. With a war, which won't be swift, millions more will be added to that number. We have the potential that the five million or so DPRK soldiers will fight to the death, inspired by their 'Great Leader'. The peninsula will become soaked in the blood of a generation of young men, their futures stolen from them by someone we make cartoons of.
When the fighting is over, transporting aid will become urgent and extremely difficult. The beautiful country of North Korea is almost unspoiled with infrastructure and as mountainous as anywhere else. Rural communities will be starving in their villages whilst we try to work out how to reach them with food and medical supplies. With no access to radio or television, they're likely to have little knowledge of what's going on.
The time for the joking has stopped. We, in the developed and free world, don't need to be 'making light of the situation in order to cope'. We will cope whatever happens. What we need is to be prepared to face horrors to come.
The wise thing to do right now, along with praying for those in DPRK, would be to make sure that our governments are ready and willing to give all we have to see those people live.
Britain is a world leader in aid and development. As we continue to live in a world of increasing isolationism we need to be prepared to drop the act of 'Britain first' and be ready to lead the efforts to save millions of lives.
When it comes to DPRK, we need to be ready to declare "If it's us or them, it's us for them."
*This blog was originally posted on DigitalGruel.com*