Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Ask a Korean! News: Mr. Joo Seong-Ha on Kim Family Portrait Target Practice


First of all, some background -- recently, North Korea threw a hissy fit over the fact that some platoons of South Korean army reserved used the pictures of Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un as target practice. Mr. Joo Seong-Ha gives a nice insight to the reaction. Below is the translation.

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Honestly, I was a bit surprised by North Korea's reaction over the fact that certain army reserve troops used the pictures of Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un and target practice. Of course, such action would never be acceptable to North Korea -- it would be like the reaction by a religious cult that got a wind of the news that the face of the cult leader is being used as a target practice by believers of other religions. But the problem is the methodology of how to report the incident. 

In a society like North Korea, something like "the South Korean traitors have used Dear Leader's portrait as a target practice" just cannot be said. I wrote this previously on the blog, but there was an incident during the 1990s, in which a South Korean entrepreneur was visiting North Korea. While having dinner and drinks with North Koreans, he said the equivalent of: "Men of Jeonju Kim clan can screw like a horse." Kim Il-Sung belongs to the Jeonju Kim clan -- in other words, the South Korean essentially said Kim Jong-Il is an animal in bed. In North Korea, you cannot let this type of story pass when there are other people listening also. That is the straight course to being a reactionary. A report was made, and the National Security Bureau arrested this businessman.

(More after the jump)

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But the problem was -- how can this incident be reported? You can't write: "This man said Dear Leader was great in bed." In North Korea, the writer of that sentence would lose his neck for blasphemy. The report writing itself was like putting a bell on the cat. In the end, no one could write the report, and the businessman returned to South Korea safely.

This is the kind of society North Korea is. While having an argument, one might point and yell. But the other person could shut him up by placing his hand to uphold the shirt breast which bears the Kim Il-Sung badge and retort, "Where do you think you are point your finger to?!" What I find strange is that a society like that would dare speak of Kim Jong-Il's face being a target.

Of course, the official statement does not refer to Kim Jong-Il's picture. This is the excerpt from the statement of the spokesman of the People's Army Central Command, released on June 3:

"The world will clearly see the vengeful response by our 10 million soldiers to protect the supreme dignity of our nation and people, and the fate of the traitor Lee Myoung-Bak and the puppet war-mongers who dare to provoke the heaven's wrath."

That's right -- North Korea is using the euphemism, "supreme dignity." That is an expression rarely used in North Korea.

Another strange thing is that Rodong Shinmun [TK: North Korea's official newspaper] is reporting the angry reaction of North Korean people. Reporting this on Rodong Shimmun serves no propagandizing purpose. No matter how much North Korean regime hates Lee Myoung-Bak, it cannot dare say "South Korea is using Dear Leader's portrait as a target practice." In that case, every North Korean would look at the portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in their house and imagine them being used as targets. This is not acceptable for North Korea.

But still, Rodong Shimmun reported in its June 5 editorial: "We can no longer bear the mutinous band's ploy against the Republic, which has progressed to the mentions of 'ideological unification' and has reached to the point of disrespecting our supreme dignity." Chosun Central Broadcasting and Pyongyang Broadcasting also reported the angry reaction of the North Koreans in Pyongyang Textile Factory, Mamyeong Cooperative Farm in Anak-gun, Hwanghaenam-do and a leather factory in Sariwon, Hwanghaebuk-do. 

The television stations also showed the criticisms by various North Korean public personalities in the press, education and labor union, such as the chief of the cabinet, dean of the Kim Il-Sung University Law School, manager of Pyongyang Botonggang District Quality Control Center, chair of the Central Committee of Agricultural and Labor Alliance, etc. They said things like "we will wipe Lee Myoung-Bak's thugs from the face of the earth by turning each of us into bullets and shells, exploding our accumulated vengefulness and endured indignation," or "the mutinous band must realize that there is no place on Earth where they can hide from the merciless strike by the People's Army."

Of course, the content of their speech is meaningless -- the speakers do not stand before the camera until they have been carefully casted and painstakingly practice down to their angry facial expression. They are just reading the script. But if their mock anger is based on the knowledge that Kim Jong-Il's picture was being used as a target practice, it would be a welcome news to me. As I said earlier, it is significant if North Korean people are given the room to imagine turning the portraits in their houses to a target practice.

The more North Korea talks, the more it loses. They might try to make their people hate Lee Myoung-Bak administration, but they will end up tarnishing the image of Kim Jong-Il. North Korean regime knows this, but why do they bother talking about "supreme dignity"? As someone who was born in and studied in North Korea, this made no sense.

I had a chance to speak on the phone with someone in North Korea, the same day the Rodong Shinmun editorial appeared. Before I even asked, he breathlessly spoke over the phone: "The border patrol is really stepped up because you guys are shooting at the flag of the Republic. The Security Bureau is on high alert and there is more cell signal detectors."

My jaw dropped. The regime must be telling the people that the "supreme dignity" means the North Korean flag. I should have known.

김정일을 김정일이라 말도 못하고 [Joo Seong-Ha's North Korea Real Talk]

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  1. Thanks, as always, for translating.

  2. I honestly don't understand how North Koreans manage to survive the juggling act... don't say this, or something will happen to you... but if you don't say it, you could be blamed for not saying anything. At least, that's my understanding, from what Mr. Joo Seong-Ha wrote. Thanks for translating this.


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