Sunday, March 28, 2010

B.R. Myers article about recent North Korean propaganda

B.R. Myers has a must-read article in the Wall Street Journal (via this comment at the Marmot's Hole).

In his book The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves - And Why it Matters, B.R. Myers examines the propaganda used by the North Korean government over the years. The main line is that Koreans are uniquely pure and virtuous, but that this virtue makes them an easy target for outsiders, and the only person capable of protecting them from such rapacious outsiders (such as the Americans or Japanese) is their leader.

That Kim Il-sung was single-handedly protecting them was retroactively supported by the famines and economic collapse that occurred almost immediately after his death. While Kim Jong-il was presented as having forced the U.S. to surrender during the 1994 nuclear crisis, the regime struggled to figure out how to present Kim Jong-il to the people in the wake of the famine and economic troubles, eventually settling on a military first policy in which Kim Jong-il was said to be so busy tirelessly touring the country's military bases that the people would have to fend for themselves (something they were shamed into by descriptions of his diet: "whatever the troops are eating").

With the worst of the famine over in the late 1990s, a new slogan - "A Great Country, Strong and Prosperous" - was announced, and when Kim Dae-jung came to Pyongyang it was said that the idea of cooperation was Kim Jong-il's idea, one he had dazzled the South Korean president into after the latter had come to Pyongyang wanting to make the North renounce socialism. As the North toned down the anti-ROK rhetoric and increased the anti-U.S., anti-Bush propaganda line, the influx of information and popular culture from the ROK was not as harmful as might have been thought, considering that the ROK government and media line during those years was essentially anti-American and, if not pro-Pyongyang, at least not anti-Pyongyang. That the South were economically better off was known (and blamed on the (necessary) military-first policy), but it was believed that the Southerners wanted to be freed from U.S. control and be unified under Kim Jong-il's rule.

The 2008 election of 'traitor' Lee Myung-bak provided a challenge to this belief, though that challenge was delayed by the mad cow protests of 2008, which lived up to Northern propaganda about Lee hoodwinking the electorate. In the years since, the DPRK has been in a crisis, dealing with the increasing support in the south for Lee, the south's cool stance towards the DPRK, the declining health of Kim Jong-il, and the need to (very quickly) groom his son for leadership. Last year, under the slogans "150 Day Battle," followed by the "100 Day Battle" urging the people to farm and work harder, the government line has become more martial, with slogans calling on people to sacrifice themselves in battle for the leader becoming more common.
[Pages 50-66]

This new article continues from where the book leaves off.
What the masses are learning is incompatible with their decades-old sense of a sacred racial mission. They have known since the 1990s that their living standard is much lower than South Korea's. The gap was explained away with reference to the sacrifices needed to build up the military. What the North Koreans are only now realizing, however—and this is more important—is that their brethren in the "Yankee colony" have no desire to live under Kim Jong Il. In 2007, after all, they elected the pro-American candidate to the South Korean presidency. Why, then, should the northerners go on sacrificing in order to liberate people who don't want to be liberated? Unable to answer this question, the regime in desperation has resorted to the most reckless propaganda campaign in its history.

This "strong and prosperous country" campaign is nothing less than an effort to persuade the masses that economic life will change drastically by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Great Leader Kim Il Sung, the father of Kim Jong Il. The official media have dubbed 2010 a "year of radical transformation" that will "open the gate to a thriving nation without fail in 2012." On TV news shows, uniformed students smile into just-delivered computers, and housewives tearfully thank the Leader for new apartments. The media predict even greater triumphs "without fail" for next year. The Juche calendar—which starts with Kim Il Sung's birth year of 1912, from one and not zero—numbers 2011 as year 100, and thus hugely significant.

Be sure to read the entire article.

1 comment:

Kamiza said...

What I find shocking is that North Korean propaganda still campaigns for a united Korea--united under KJI. I love the small picture in Meyers' book of Seoul and its residents swooning in admiration over KJI on the big screen.
Funny thing is: there really are a lot of pro-North dumb-arses in South Korea--some who are 100% aware of their own beliefs and many who are unaware of the beliefs they've sheepishly accepted.
The fact that NK is still talking about forceful unification is scary, very scary, since this is exactly what Kim Il Sung had in mind 60 years ago. Its even more scary because a whole heck of a lot of the people in South Korea--esp. those 35 and under--are totally clueless to this fact.
History repeats itself folks . . . it really does.