Where You Live on Earth Matters

July 16, 2014 – Look below. Have you seen this image before?


North Korea from the ISS


It’s taken from the International Space Station flying over the Earth at night. What looks like three different land areas separated by water is not. What you are seeing here is an image of the Korean peninsula with two areas of China on the left and South Korea to the right. The black area in the middle between China and South Korea is not the Yellow Sea. It’s North Korea. And what appears to be an island in the middle is North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, a solitary point of light in a sea of darkness.

What can this image tell you? That dogma and political systems can be harmful to the health and technological advancement of a population. It tells you that North Korea is energy poor. Only the elite of the capital city have lighting at nigh while the rest of the country lives in darkness after the Sun sets.

What you can’t see is all of the other issues that beset the 24 million people who live there?

They have no Internet.

Mobile phones don’t work.

There are constant food shortages and famines.

An estimated 200,000 are locked up in enormous concentration camps where they receive no food other than that which they grow or steal, provide slave labor, and are subject to torture.

There are very few automobiles and limited public transit.

North Korea’s only economic and political ally is China. But even the Chinese find North Korea a difficult partner.

South Korea, in sharp contrast to the North, is an engine of technological innovation. Same people, same geography, different dogma, different result.

From space other places on Earth appear black at night. The poles, parts of Central Africa and Amazonia, the great deserts of the world. But unlike North Korea, these dark areas are largely devoid of people.

And yet North Korea is not devoid of technological sophistication. In one area alone it is very much a product of the 21st century armed with a nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...