That the North Korean leadership takes American comedy as an act of war is a particular feature of the role information and technology has assumed in 21st century life. Kim Jong-Un cannot countenance Seth Rogen and James Franco's antics in "The Interview," however fantastic they may be. But freedom of speech or any other kind is not the only difference between North Korea and the rest of us.
Having created a virtual prison, the Kim family dictatorship has also denied its citizens one of the most valued achievements of 20th century modern society -- longevity. Thanks to innovations ranging from pharmaceuticals and technology, to health information and basic sanitation, the average global life expectancy has risen dramatically and many countries are seeing an exponential increase in the number of people living into their 80s, 90s and beyond. Not North Korea. According to the latest official census conducted by the DPRK in 2008, the average life expectancy at birth was 69.1 years, far lower than what many of us have come to expect and even lower than what was reported in the last DPRK census in 1993. It is also a stunning 12 years less than their neighbors in South Korea.
While these shorter life-spans present many challenges to societal and economic growth, it also means the DPRK is not yet facing the full effect of the growing nightmare that is Alzheimer's disease, one of the greatest challenges of modern longevity. Because of this, it is safe to assume that the DPRK leadership neither knows nor cares not a speck about Seth Rogen's other life, the one outside Hollywood, where his compassion and commitment to the fight against Alzheimer's is truly making a difference. It is this kind of commitment and contribution that global leaders are embracing that can only thrive where there is robust engagement between the public and private sectors and a fully engaged civil society.
As part of his efforts to raise awareness of the disease and provide better care for people with Alzheimer's, Mr. Rogen launched Hilarity for Charity and teamed up with Home Instead Senior Care, an Omaha-based global company that provides non-medical home care, to donate their services to families and caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease. The efforts by Rogen and others to raise awareness around Alzheimer's disease seem to be getting through. According to a recent study by Merrill Lynch and AgeWave, a majority of retirees said they fear Alzheimer's disease more than cancer, strokes, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis combined.
If Kim Jong-Un were leading a country that were more like the modern world and had to deal with the challenges facing countries ranging from Germany and Japan, to Brazil and India, would this have made a difference in his assault on the best of our freedoms that has in its sight an actor who is "doing good" for society? Might the DPRK have let "The Interview" pass because there was some subliminal appreciation for Seth Rogen's contributions to society and his example outside of Hollywood? Probably not, but who knows. Let's just hope that Rogen continues his leadership in elevating the fight against Alzheimer's, all made possible by the money and popularity from movies like "The Interview."