Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The North Korean cult of human sacrifice

This article presents yet another chilling appraisal of the mindset of the North Koreans:

Faced with a starving population, an economy that is a shambles and its longtime Communist allies tripping over themselves to embrace free-market capitalism, North Korea's leadership long ago turned weakness into strength by steeling its population for permanent war.

The years of spadework have paid off, experts say. With tighter restrictions on oil, food and other goods a near-certainty after Monday's announced nuclear test, Pyongyang seems confident that its long-suffering people -- battered by famine, floods and economic mismanagement -- will bow their heads and continue to suffer in silence. This is an important surety in the regime's decision to detonate what it said was a nuclear device, a major gamble.

Many of the intimidation tactics employed in North Korea to keep its population in line are common to totalitarian regimes elsewhere. But North Korea has taken them to the extreme, analysts say, maintaining a tighter lid on its society than East Germany in its darkest days.

For decades, North Korea has subjected its population to a propaganda assault centered around the concept of juche, roughly translated as "self-reliance." In recent years, scholars say, the term has also come to connote unquestioned trust in the "living god" leadership of national founder Kim Il Sung and his son, current ruler Kim Jong Il.

This link between sacrifice, national glory and the near-divine leadership is evident in the smallest details. During a tour of Pyongyang's Tower of the Juche Idea last year, guide Park Gyong Nam explained that the 560-foot-high monument was built in 1982, the year of the 70th birthday of Kim Il Sung, using 25,500 granite blocks. Do the math, and that works out to one block for every day of Mr. Kim's life, he said.

The truth is that socialist North Korea has never been self-reliant, depending since its formation on the Soviet Union, then China and the United Nations and other international donors to feed itself. But this myth is part of the glue that binds North Koreans to the regime.

"This has a huge impact on people's ability to withstand hardship," said Cui Yingjiu, honorary director of Peking University's Institute for Korean Culture Studies. "For most of the past 100 years North Koreans haven't had enough to eat or wear. This gives them enormous tolerance for hardship," added Mr. Cui, who attended university with Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in the early 1960s. [Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times]
They don't have enough to eat or wear, they are convinced the world persecutes them, they enshrine sacrifice, they think their leader is a god—and now they have the bomb. Brilliant.

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