Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

My fascination with all things Chinese and Japanese goes right back into my teenage years and my interest in all things Korean began a bit later. It began in the late 1980s when I was still a teenager in Belfast. This was at a time when there was no such thing as the Internet and books about Korea were few and far between. And there was no possibility whatever of getting my hands on any Korean newspapers.

Coincidentally, the 1988 Olympic Games were taking place in Seoul so there was plenty about capitalist South Korea on the TV and radio, but precious little about communist North Korea. And this made me all the more interested in the North. I got my first glimpse into the DPRK in December 1989 when a school friend of mine got me two DPRK periodicals from the library at Queen’s University.

Now, if any supporters of Kim Jong-il’s regime happen to be reading this post, they would be well-advised to stop now.

A part of me would like to believe that the DPRK is the Socialist dream come true, that Communism really can work under the right administration.

But the DPRK is not Communist at all. It is an odious Stalinist dictatorship, at the centre of which is the grotesque personality cult of Kim Il-sung. It is not self-sufficient as “Juche” ideology says. It is bankrupt and its people are hungry, brainwashed and paranoid.

This country is a prime example of a dystopia. No one familiar with the novels of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley or Franz Kafka would want to have anything to do with this country.

So what is it about the DPRK that I like? Could it be the novelty of the place? The fact that I’d be guaranteed a job, even if it’s boring and back-breaking? Or is it because there’s a proper culture there and not the merest sign of American junk “culture”?

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2 responses to “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

  1. Yes, maybe that’s it. The United States is the world’s greatest polluter (although China is catching up). Not only are they polluting the earth with their factories, their cars and their fast food franchises, they are also polluting people’s minds with their propaganda. But they’d never call it propaganda, good heavens, no! They have their very own euphemism for it. It’s called “Fox News”.

    And it doesn’t end there. The United States, its government and society is rife with corruption, crime and murder. So what do the TV networks do to distract the American public from all this? They invented “soap operas” and “Reality TV”, thus giving people something interesting to talk about, even if it’s totally useless and irrelevant.

    And instead of broadcasting news about who’s talking about what with whom in the upper echelons of the political and economic world they fill their newspapers and magazines with talk of “celebrities”. These celebrities are quite unremarkable people who are only famous for being well-known. And all they talk about is who’s the best-dressed, who’s sleeping with whom, who’s the skinniest, who’s the worst-dressed and who’s got the worst drug problem.

    And this malaise that the US is under spreads far beyond its borders, across the Atlantic and the Pacific, everywhere, in fact.

    Excpet the DPRK. It may not be the best place in the world, it may not be the richest either. But the gap between the richest and the poorest is much narrower than in the US. And there are hardly gas-guzzling automobiles and definitely no fast food outlets like McDonald’s. There may be a problem with industrial pollution but there’s definitely no problem with light pollution. And no blaring adverts on TV and no hideous billboards on the streets. Any world-weary traveller could take a break in the DPRK.

  2. I’m a little fascinated with North Korea myself, and I think it’d be such an incredible and interesting place to visit and observe, precisely because of its isolationism and lack of “junk culture” as you say. A while ago I saw some rare photos of life there on the New York Times website, and it looked, in a sense, harmonious and pure. The people weren’t touting the latest fashions or cell phones or going around seemingly obsessed with themselves like many Americans; they were engaging in community-wide activities and bowing to statutes of Kim Jong-il – the latter of which is of course a little troubling but also, in a way, kind of charming and un-selfish.

    Of course, if Westerners start visiting the DPRK they will eventually pollute it with their junk culture.

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