Talk about hogs running the proverbial animal farm. In North Korea, a prodigious propaganda machine powers a chubby pseudo-deity with a funny haircut who runs the whole stinking show.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly referred to as North Korea, maintains a cult of personality that venerates three generations of dictators: grandfather, Kim Il-sung, father Kim Jong-il, and current man-god, Kim Jong-un.
Its depth and scope of misinformation and brainwashing surpasses even that of Stalinist Russia. Like all cults and dictatorships, North Korea elevates flawed, capricious men and transforms them into semi-gods in the minds of citizens who come to believe their leaders can do wrong.
North Korea’s tandem of propaganda and cult of personality is especially effective because it leverages a national identity of civic duty and loyalty to leadership.
Propagating a god
The Kim family cult began around 1949 during the rule of Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung. Through ubiquitous propaganda and “education,” North Korea’s youngest citizens were taught that they were fed, clothed and nurtured in all aspects by the “grace of the Chairman.”
One of these children, defector and author Kang Chol-hwan, describes the state-sponsored delusion like this:
“To my childish eyes and to those of all my friends, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were perfect beings, untarnished by any base human function. I was convinced, as we all were, that neither of them urinated or defecated.
Who could imagine such things of gods?”
Cra cra? It’s not that simple. The power of propaganda and the cult of personality are immense and virtually all-consuming. Brainwashing is an effective mind-control tool. Just ask former Scientologists, cult members and defectors of totalitarian regimes.
Glorious leader forever
Kim Il-sung is the Eternal President. Eternally. Why? Because after becoming the nation’s first president, he had the position retired. It’s like when an American sports team retires a legendary player’s jersey number. Another legend can follow; but none can ever wear the first legend’s number.
The Eternal President’s likeness also is virtually eternal. There are a roughly 34,000 statues of him in North Korea. His birthday is the equivalent of the American Fourth of July. And, of course, his greatness is taught in the classroom.
Students memorize Kim Il-sung’s speeches and marvel at his state-imagined accomplishments, like when he single-handedly defeated the Japanese at the end of the occupation of Korea.
Over the course of his 46-year rule, Kim Il-sung was granted many titles such as Sun, Great Chairman, Heavenly Leader and others. He also was awarded the “Double Hero Gold Medal” because, after all, a double hero is twice as good as a single one.
The North Korean state even created a calendar just for Kim Il-sung. While the rest of the world operates in 2017, North Korea’s current year is “Juche 105” (105 years after the Eternal President’s birth).
Rainbows and uniforms
North Korea’s propaganda machine engaged in myth-making for Kim Il-sung’s son, Kim Jong-il, as well. According to legend, his birth was heralded by a swallow and caused winter to change to spring, a star to light the sky, and a double rainbow to spontaneously appear.
Propaganda has it that Kim Jong-il could walk and talk before the age of six months and control the weather based on his mood, among other state-issued accomplishments.
Like shooting a 38-under par the first time he picked up a golf club. This epic links outing included no less that 11 holes in one. Reportedly, it was so easy that he quickly grew bored with the game and ceremoniously retired.
According to Kim Jong-il’s official biography, he authored 1,500 books during his three years at his father’s college, Kim-Il-sung University. Somehow between his book writing and studies, he found time to pen six full operas—”all of which are better than any in the history of music,” declares the biography.
When Kim Il-sung died in 1994, Kim Jong-il declared a national mourning period for three years. Three years?
Man, that’s a long time to grieve—legitimately or otherwise. To help his people maintain a tearful facade, the Dear Leader punished those who faltered in following state-written mourning rules.
Not to be outdone, the current despot Kim Jong-un holds at least six titles, one of which makes him “Wonsu,” the second highest rank in North Korea’s military despite having no military experience. And this “promotion” is in addition to his title of Supreme Commander.
Apparently, Kim Jong-un, like his father, was also a prodigy. North Korean students are instructed that he could drive at three and win yacht races at nine. And that he’s a skilled artist and composer of musical scores.
Life as a god-king
Kim Jong-un enjoys unworldly opulence while most in his locked-down nation live barely above or in abject poverty. He smokes Western cigarettes, plays video games, rides jet skis and indulges an NBA basketball fetish while his communist comrades feed the machine that powers his imperial fun.
But he does put down his Xbox controller and cigarette long enough to order up some real-world destruction. According to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, Kim Jong-un has executed at least 70 officials since taking power.
And to keep his own family members in line, he whacked his uncle, Jang Song Thaek and had his older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, assassinated in Malaysia.
Kim Jong-un’s seemingly favorite method of execution is death by anti-aircraft guns. Cute. How Dr. Evilesque—but without the funny.
Like all dictators. Kim Jong-un wields a crazy amount of power and more than any mortal can handle. Especially for someone who’s lived an unreal and kingly life for all of his 32-35 years. (We can’t be sure of his age because the exact year of his birth seems to be a state secret.)
One thing’s for certain though—Kim Jong-un’s upbringing and sheltered existence makes Donald Trump’s childhood seem mundanely normal. But it’s his ideology that makes the portly man-god dangerous and unpredictable.
And here’s the scariest part: Kim Jong-un has his pudgy finger on the nuclear and chemical weapons buttons of the DPRK. Worse, he’s seeking intercontinental warhead delivery capability. Scary stuff, indeed.
Update: 4.20.17 breaking news in typical DPRK style…
So now the world waits to see if our loose cannon of a president can stare down a porky young ruler with a questionable grip on reality and pressure him into giving up his nuclear weapons aims. Fat chance.
Call me crazy, but it seems a fool’s errand to get this nutty guy to back down now when he’s never had to before. Trump would do better to offer him lifetime courtside tickets to any and all NBA games.
I fear force is the only pressure point to which the Supreme Leader will respond. Apparently, Kim Jong-un doesn’t listen to cautions from big brother China. Meanwhile, his people starve and suffer under yet another Communist failure of a state.
Socialism is a nice idea that does not work precisely because its tenets run counter to human nature. People will always want to rise above others and take more than their share of the loaf of bread. It’s just how we are.
We’re bent by greed, malice, selfishness and a corrupt, broken world that’s incompatible with the empty promises of socialism.
Communism is socialism with teeth; and it provides a barnyard for the strongest pigs to take over the farm. It happened in Russia and Cuba and China and elsewhere. Sadly, swine rule is firmly in place in North Korea even as its soldiers blindly goose-step for state cameras while grinding the hopes of true freedom underfoot.