Published on Progress online, by Hopi Sen, December 19, 2011.
… On the day of his death, we should look past the accounts of his life, the real and the imagined legend, and focus instead on those for whom the myth was created, and for whom the truth had, at all costs, to be kept.
On my bookshelf sits a small collection of North Korean history and journalism. There are accounts of diplomats stationed in Pyongyang, trying to explain how North Korea formed the way it did, and how its decisions are made. There are books by photographers, who, knowing they are being allowed to photograph only the legend, try to reveal truths inside, or alongside, the propaganda they are forced to focus on.
Most of all, there are two books about the citizenry of the hermit kingdom, presented to us by their regime as participants in mass games, or loyal soldiers, or, as today, as true believers.
To us, those citizens might appear the backdrop to the bizarre life of Kim Jong-Il. In reality, their control was its entire purpose. Their displayed grief is intended to be his highest compliment. Their hidden pain is his ultimate indictment.
We are tempted to focus on the life of Kim Jong-Il. His palaces. His private train, his kidnapping of Japanese actresses and film directors. His taste for fine food, and cognac.
The danger is that we ignore Yodok Concentration camp, where Kang Hwol-Chan was sent, aged nine, because his grandfather had been accused of disloyalty. The danger is we forget the public executions he witnessed as a child.
The danger is that we forget Bukchang, or Kaechon, or Camp 22, where tens of thousands of those the regime deems unreliable are sent, and where thousands of them die.
The danger is that we forget that North Korea is a country where a quarter of the population is officially classed as ‘hostile’, and that those in this class are not allowed more than basic education, nor allowed to travel, and, when rations are available, get the least of them.
The danger is that we skate over the Kwanliso prison camps, the kyohwaso labour camps and the so called ‘9/27’ camps for kotjebi (‘swallows’, street children orphaned by the breakdown of families caused by extreme famine), detention camps where Amnesty international reported meals of ‘80 kernels of corn for every meal, or of three to four spoons of corn meal mixed with hot water.’
We know so little of all of these lives, they are so carefully hidden from us, that they fade from view behind the grossness of the dictator.
We do know enough, however, to piece together a populace suffering in a way that few have ever suffered. A police state, repression, public execution, famine, starvation, labour camps, a system of ranking loyalty that dictates every aspect of your life. It is hard to even catalogue the deaths from famine, though we know the numbers who died are in the hundreds of thousands … //
… In the meantime, we should mark the death of a man who was not real to us by trying one more time to focus on those who his life dominated, and whose sufferings he obscured. We should mark the death of the unreal Kim Jong-Il by remembering those for whom he was all too real. (full text).
(Hopi Sen is a Labour blogger … his cat on twitter).
(My comment: we all have seen the pictures with hungry orphans looking for food in market’s garbage buckets, and all grown ups around ignoring them … letting them go to death …
… now this same people is crying and weeping in our evening TV … why had they not cried their own people’s children before? … and what if the few having not cried will be persecuted later by their peers, their neighbors for lack of community spirit? … I guess we even not imagine what is real dictatorship … I mean, brainwashed people’s real dictatorship … could it be that THE BIG EVIL can be created? Realy created by a lost, brainwashed humanity forgetting its neighbor’s children? … )
Kim Jong-il’s funeral was a lesson in epic film-making, on The Guardian, by David Cohen, December 28, 2011;
Media Disinformation: Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il: Two Icons, Two Deaths, Two Worlds, on Global Research.ca, by Danny Schechter, December 25, 2011.