Thursday, January 17, 2013
INFANTILIZATION-BY-TERROR: THE PERSONALITY CULTS OF NORTH KOREA
As you may remember, I posted recently on Shin Dong-hyuk's 2005 escape from a North Korean death camp. My friend Bill and I had dinner the other night and I was thrilled to learn that he's somewhat of an expert on North Korean history. We marveled at the almost hysterical devotion to Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il, in spite of the harsh repression, widespread famine, and hundreds of thousands of brutal killings committed under their watch.
Afterward he sent me the three featured youtubes. I wrote back:
"It's as if the identities of the North Koreans have all been subsumed to "The Great Leader"--exactly the opposite of the follower of Christ where (ideally) we 'obey' out of love and thus are revealed in Him...maybe that's why I like stories of the survivors--to be reminded that each of those people is a human being with a heart, mind, soul"...
To which Bill replied:
There is a radical difference between the lessons of Matthew 18:3 ["Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven] and Mark 10:15, and the infantilization-by-terror of the people of North Korea. And it's far too easy to imagine these people as robots when they're quite the opposite. The darkness we see in nighttime images from space of North Korea is like a pall of suffering.
From B.R. Myers, the author of The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters:
"In this book . . . I aim to explain North Korea's dominant ideology or worldview — I use the words interchangeably— and to show how far removed it is from communism, Confucianism and the show-window doctrine of Juche Thought. Far from complex, it can be summarized in a single sentence: The Korean people are too pure blooded, and therefore too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader."
From the book:
"Many in the West, of course, continue to doubt that the North Koreans really believe in their personality cult. This skepticism derives in part from recollections of the double lives led in the old East Bloc, where the average educated citizen feigned fervent support for his country's leader in formal settings only to joke about him behind closed doors. But this only goes to show how little the East Bloc and North Korea ever had in common, for the masses' adoration of Kim Il Sung has always been very real. Even among the few North Koreans who have left the country and stayed out, a heartfelt admiration for the Great Leader is mainstream (I personally know migrants who still cannot talk of him without tearing up). This has much to do with the far greater psychological appeal of nationalism itself, but Kim Il Sung's peculiarly androgynous or hermaphroditic image also seems to exert a far more emotional attraction than any of the unambiguously paternal leaders of Eastern Europe were able to. I am not qualified to analyze the cult (of anything else) from a psychological viewpoint, but just enough should be written here to counter the reader's skepticism that sane people could give themselves over to the adoration of a male mother figure. Sigmund Freud wrote of every child's yearning for a phallic mother, a truly omnipotent parent who is both sexes in one, and Ernest Becker agreed that the hermaphroditic image answers a striving for ontological wholeness that is inherent to man. This may explain why Jesus and Buddha are far more feminine and maternal figures in the popular imagination than in the original scriptures of Christianity and Buddhism. The North Koreans' race theory gives them extra reason to want a leader who is both mother enough to indulge their unique childlikeness and father enough to protect them from the evil world."
NORTH KOREANS MOURNING THE DEATH OF KIM IL SUNG (1912-1994).
1 MILLION PEOPLE ARE PURPORTED TO HAVE DIED THROUGH CONCENTRATION CAMPS, FORCED LABOR, AND EXECUTIONS UNDER HIS REGIME.