But, in North Korea, it's just the opposite. There's one story. It's written by the Kim regime. And 23 million people are conscripted to be secondary characters. There, as a youth, your aptitude towards certain jobs is measured, and the rest of your life is dictated, whether you'll be a fisherman or a farmer or an opera singer.
For an entire populace, change, growth, and spontaneity were dangerous. Acting upon a personal desire, whispering a hidden longing, revealing your true feelings - all the human actions we think of as essential to a character - had be censored by the self lest they be punished by the state.
I'd known that the visit would be highly scripted and that genuine interactions with citizens wouldn't be possible, since it's illegal for them to speak with foreigners. Still, I'd thought I'd had a unique look at North Korea, only to discover I was wrong.
In America, the stories we tell ourselves and we tell each other in fiction have to do with individualism. Every person here is the center of his or her own story. And our job as people and as characters is to find our own motivations and desires, to overcome conflicts and obstacles toward defining ourselves so that we grow and change.
It's true. In America, you can reinvent yourself at any turn. And, you know, if things aren't going well for you in life, everyone says, change, become someone different.