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Report Summary July 5, 2011
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North Korean Menace
Can the repressive regime survive?
By Robert Kiener

North Korea is one of the world's last family-run communist dictatorships. As 2012 approaches — the year North Korea has vowed to become a “powerful and prosperous” nation — the. . . .

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The Issues
  • Should the international community give humanitarian aid to North Korea?
  • Will North Korea ever agree to reduce its nuclear arsenal?
  • Should the Obama administration change its stance on North Korea?


Pro/Con
Should the international community send humanitarian aid to North Korea?

Pro Pro
Chung Min Lee
Dean, Graduate School of International Studies and the Underwood International College, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea. Written for CQ Global Researcher, July 2011
Bruce Klingner
Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia, The Heritage Foundation. Written for CQ Global Researcher, July 2011


Spotlight
Vast sums are spent to deify North Korea's ‘Dear Leader.’

Dear Leader. Supreme Leader. Our Father. Lodestar of the 21st century. North Korea's state propaganda masters have fashioned a variety of worshipful names for the nation's diminutive, 70-year-oldFootnote * dictator, Kim Jong Il.

North Koreans are taught to worship Kim as a god, just as they worshiped his father Kim Il Sung — known as the Great Leader and who, according to the North Korean constitution, remains the Eternal President. As one longtime observer noted, “Kim Il-sung appropriated Christian imagery and dogma for the purpose of self-promotion…. If Kim Il-sung was God, then Kim Jong-il was the son of God.”Footnote 1 The pervasive cult of personality with religious overtones has helped both the father and son rule the nation with iron fists.

To further burnish Kim Jong Il's image, the state's propaganda machine bombards the nation's 24 million citizens with photos, television and radio stories, plays, operas and skits about his remarkable, if not superhuman, accomplishments, such as:

  • He can alter the weather simply through the power of thought;

  • In 1994, the first (and last) time he played golf, he shot a 38-under par on the country's lone golf course, including 11 holes-in-one;

  • When he was born in 1941, a new star appeared in the sky;

  • He learned to walk at just three weeks and talked at eight weeks and

  • He wrote 1,500 books while studying at Kim Il Sung University and six operas in two years, “all of which are better than any in the history of music,” according to his official biography.Footnote 2

Statues, pictures and shrines to the Kims are everywhere in the so-called Hermit Kingdom. “Wherever one goes in North Korea it is virtually impossible to avoid the unblinking stare of The Great Leader or The Dear Leader,” noted a Western reporter. “Their statues stand watch over the people, and their faces are on the currency, portraits are in every carriage of Pyongyang's underground system, on the lapel pins every citizen wears and enormous street hoardings,” or billboards.Footnote 3

Cultivating this cult of personality costs a fortune. According to a 2007 study, Kim-centered propaganda expenditures doubled between 1990 and 2004, rising from 19 percent of the North's budget to at least 38.5 percent.Footnote 4 That cost covers everything from maintaining more than 30,000 Kim monuments and 40,000 research institutes to numerous events held to worship Kim and his father.

North Korean women leave a memorial dedicated to the “Eternal Leader (AFP/Getty Images/Mark Ralston)
North Korean women leave a memorial dedicated to the “Eternal Leader” — the nation's founder, Kim Il Sung — after paying their respects in Pyongyang on Feb. 26, 2008. North Korea's first president remains its eternal head of state, although his son, Kim Jong Il, is called the “Dear Leader.” (AFP/Getty Images/Mark Ralston)

North Koreans learn to deify the leader, because speaking ill of the regime can result in a prison sentence. According to the U.S. State Department, one citizen was sent to prison camp for accidentally sitting on a newspaper that included a picture of Kim Jong Il.Footnote 5

Kim's son Kim Jong Un apparently is being groomed to succeed his father, judging from the recent onslaught of propaganda that introduced the nation to the chubby 28- or 29-year-oldFootnote * four-star general. According to a government textbook for military officials, “Anyone who meets him is fascinated by him…. [He is] a military talent who has genius, wisdom and policy.”Footnote 6 More than 10 million copies of his portrait were reportedly printed for distribution to the public.Footnote 7 (Already, every home by law must contain a picture of the two elder Kims.)

South Korea, which long has planned for the day the two countries will be reunified, has drawn up — aided by North Korean defectors — a list of targets to destroy to purge the vestiges of the Kim personality cult. The list includes 40,000 works of calligraphy of the Kims' writings, which are engraved on mountainsides and painted on propaganda posters, and more than 35,000 statues and monuments of the two leaders. The statues will be pulled down and smashed, suffering the same fate as Lenin's statues after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein's after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.Footnote 8

Meanwhile, as the state spends more and more money burnishing the image of the two Kims, North Koreans remain too terrified to complain about their leaders or their own deplorable living conditions. “Northerners may hate Kim, but they have to act like they're reading from the same sheet of music,” says Chung Min Lee, dean of the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. “Until the regime falls, they have little choice.”

— Robert Kiener

[1] Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy (2009), p. 45.

Footnote:
1. Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy (2009), p. 45.

[2] Julian Ryall, “The incredible Kim Jong-il and his amazing achievements,” The Telegraph, Jan. 31, 2011, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/8292848/The-Incredible-Kim-Jong-il-and-his-Amazing-Achievements.html.

Footnote:
2. Julian Ryall, “The incredible Kim Jong-il and his amazing achievements,” The Telegraph, Jan. 31, 2011, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/8292848/The-Incredible-Kim-Jong-il-and-his-Amazing-Achievements.html.

[3] Julian Ryall, “Analysis: North Korea's bizarre personality cult and why it has worked — so far,” The Telegraph, Jan. 20, 2011, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/8292930/Analysis-North-Koreas-bizarre-personality-cult-and-why-it-has-worked-so-far.html.

Footnote:
3. Julian Ryall, “Analysis: North Korea's bizarre personality cult and why it has worked — so far,” The Telegraph, Jan. 20, 2011, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/8292930/Analysis-North-Koreas-bizarre-personality-cult-and-why-it-has-worked-so-far.html.

[4] Robert Marquand, “N. Korea escalates ‘cult of Kim’ to counter West's influence,” The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 3, 2007, www.csmonitor.com/2007/0103/p01s04-woap.html.

Footnote:
4. Robert Marquand, “N. Korea escalates ‘cult of Kim’ to counter West's influence,” The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 3, 2007, www.csmonitor.com/2007/0103/p01s04-woap.html.

[5] Peter Brookes, “North Korea: Master of Mayhem,” Heritage Foundation, Aug. 4, 2009, www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2009/08/north-korea-master-of-mayhem.

Footnote:
5. Peter Brookes, “North Korea: Master of Mayhem,” Heritage Foundation, Aug. 4, 2009, www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2009/08/north-korea-master-of-mayhem.

[6] Joshua Keating, “North Koreans preparing Kim Jong-un personality cult,” Sept. 9, 2009, http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/09/09/north_koreans_preparing_kim_jong_un_personality_cult.

Footnote:
6. Joshua Keating, “North Koreans preparing Kim Jong-un personality cult,” Sept. 9, 2009, http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/09/09/north_koreans_preparing_kim_jong_un_personality_cult.

[7] Kim Se-jeong, “N. Korea creating personality cult around next leader Kim Jong-un,” Korea Times, Oct. 20, 2010, www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/10/116_74912.html.

Footnote:
7. Kim Se-jeong, “N. Korea creating personality cult around next leader Kim Jong-un,” Korea Times, Oct. 20, 2010, www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/10/116_74912.html.

[8] “Plan in place to dismantle cult of N. Korean leaders,” Chosun Ilbo, March 28, 2011, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2011/03/28/2011032800479.html.

Footnote:
8. “Plan in place to dismantle cult of N. Korean leaders,” Chosun Ilbo, March 28, 2011, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2011/03/28/2011032800479.html.


Document Citation
Kiener, R. (2011, July 5). North Korean menace. CQ Global Researcher, 5, 315-340. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/
Document ID: cqrglobal2011070500
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/cqrglobal2011070500


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