blogenlust
11.30.2004

What's Going on in North Korea?


I've always been sort of fascinated about North Korea, particularly the cult of personality surrounding Kim Jong Il and the level of secrecy which the country keeps from the rest of the world. According to the Christian Science Monitor, though, Kim's cult might be scaling back because of an increase in protest activities:
BEIJING - Years can drift by between press conferences in Pyongyang. But recently the tiny resident press corps, namely the ITAR-Tass correspondent Stanislav Varivoda and two Chinese journalists, were summoned to hear Mr. Varivoda's story refuted. He reported last month that portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had disappeared from key public buildings. Further, the media had stopped using the honorific "Dear Leader" in official bulletins. "There's not normally much to do here but this has caused a storm," Varivoda said in a phone interview from Pyongyang. "At the press conference they said nothing I reported is true." Small signs often portend big changes in closed societies, especially in the secretive court of North Korea's Kim dynasty. Observers are wondering if this is just another mad whim from the palace - like the edicts forbidding women to wear red trousers or to eat hamburgers. Or if, after 3 million deaths from starvation on his watch, Kim Jong Il's star many finally be falling - something suggested by numerous North Korean refugees in recent interviews. Resident diplomats see nothing unusual in the country but confirm the portraits are gone in a few places. The 62-year-old Kim continues to be addressed with more than a thousand honorifics such as "The Lodestar of the 21st Century" and "Guardian of Our Planet."
The article also mentions that opposition to Kim is intensifying:
Refugees also indicate that opposition has become more open and daring. More and more pamphlets and banners are appearing calling for Kim's overthrow. Almost all refugees report seeing slogans such as "Down with Kim Jong Il" painted on walls, pylons, and railway carriages throughout the country. Statues and murals of the Kims have been defaced, and the halls erected for worship of the Kim family have been burnt down. Some officials have been found killed in their homes.
I had no idea that there was so much organized opposition to Kim in North Korea! I've often seen video of brainwashed North Korean schoolchildren reciting threats against the United States, so I just assumed that everyone felt that way or was prisoned if they voiced any dissent. If these reports are accurate, I have hope that the situation on the Korean peninsula might be resolved peacefully. Internal pressure, combined with the ever-present external pressure on the Kim regime, might be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back. Go containment!