Kim Jong Un on the death of Kim Jong Il - Photo Credit: North Korea Central News Agency
In the wake of Kim Jong Ils passing, speculation is mounting in international media that the very public wailing in the streets by North Koreans mourning their brutal, torturous dictator, is nothing but forced.
In truly Orwellian scenes, North Koreans are playing the game of of “I am more sad than you” after the passing of their “Dear Leader”, who starved, terrorised and tortured his own populace for decades.
It’s easy to make fun of the teary scenes in Pyongyang and elsewhere. For example, you could point out that there appear to be extra points for banging the pavement with your palm. But to paraphrase what they say on the Virgin Blue flights, there is a serious side to today’s flight of fancy.
Show an inappropriate level of misery (i.e anything less than full breakdown) and you risk being nabbed by the thought police. It’s terrifying stuff.
Source: The Punch | Wail Of A Time in North Korea
The question on my lips is, who put the “mandatory mourning” law in place, and when was it made public knowledge? Did this behavior arise out of a fearful idea in the minds of a few, and spread virally around the nation? Or is this the false, forced behavior North Koreans typically express when past dictators have died?
Surely if their fear of being arrested for inappropriate levels of mourning were justified, we would have some leaked reports of citizens being taken away due to apathy or showing happiness that Jong Il is gone.
It is this lack of evidence that has me, in fact, believing that much of the misery is indeed the real deal.
As the blogger of Bag News Notes, Michael Shaw, puts it:
I think it’s almost impossible for Americans to look at these images without believing that a citizen’s sense of free will and individuality is somehow just hovering below the surface.
North Korea’s suffocating, manically-enforced and long-standing repression and cultural indoctrination, combined with the effectively religious, wall-to-wall and 24/7 pounding beat of the image and glory of Kim Il Sung, and then Kim Jong Il, cannot be underestimated.
The restriction of the North Korean self has likely been so fundamental from birth as to leave most citizens either psychically set in the fold, or at least anxiety-ridden to dare entertain a political thought inside his or her own head.
…And so, just like the reaction of a child who loses a parent who has been taking care of her while also abusing her, the reaction is complex. Rather than looking at these photos one-dimensionally — just reading “sadness,” for example — I think what we’re seeing is grief constituted by fear, confusion and a more existential sense of loss.
Read the full article: Bag News | How to understand all those photos of North Koreans Crying over Kim Jong Il
The second question I ask is this: if their wails and cries are indeed real, are North Koreans all mourning the fall of their “beloved tyrant” or are some of them perhaps mourning the fact that the future looks uncertain under the rule of his son, Kim Jong Un, or worse, those who advise him?
Kim lacks the untrammeled authority of his father or grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il-Sung.
The most powerful adviser is Jang Song-thaek, 65, brother-in-law of Kim Jong-il.
Jang is a survivor of the bloody tradition of purge and political rehabilitation that kept the two elder Kims in power for more than six decades.
“Jang has played a considerable role during Kim Jong-il’s illness of managing the succession problem and even the North’s relations with the United States and China,” said Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies.
“Jang is in overall charge of the job of making it formal for Kim Jong-un to be the legal and systematic leader by pulling together the party and the military.”
Source: The National Post | Who Really Holds The Power In North Korea?
Speculation is all we can do here in the lands of the far distanced, democratically free. In the minds of her citizens, this is perhaps an uprooting change for North Korea that comes once in 40 years… who knows what the next half-century of rule holds for their nation? Certainly not the West.