I am now reading a very interesting book on North Korea: The
Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves
, by B. R. Myers. I have read a great deal on North Korea over the years and this book really
puts a lot of things in a new perspective for me.
My interest in this book was first piqued by this book review,
which is worth reading for
The author is in a good position to write about this matter because, unlike most North Korean watchers, he is fluent in the language and has spent
much time pouring over North Korean materials meant for internal
rather than external
consumption -- a crucial difference.
According to the author, there is a massive difference in the way North Koreans portrey themselves to themselves, versus how they choose to present
themselves to the outside world. Most North Korean analysts spend time puzzling over the so-called Juche
, which is presented as the official state ideology in its foregin propaganda. According to Myers, Juche plays an almost totally
insignificant role inside North Korea. Instead, the story they tell themselves is far different.
For Myers, North Korean ideology is not based on arcane Juche-related studies, nor does it really resemble true Communist ideology -- not even the
"cult of personality" style communism of Mao or Stalin (to which it is usually compared). Rather, he believes that internal North Korean propaganda
is racially based.
According to this view, the Korean people are seen as the world's most virtuous and morally upright. Interestingly, Myers
sees this worldview as stemming to a large degree from right-wing Japanese racialist propaganda absorbed during World War II, when Japan occupied
Korea. After the Japanese were gone, the theory goes, North Korea simply adopted this view for itself and put a superficial Marxist gloss on it. Thus,
at its unspoken core, North Korea is more of an extreme right-wing racist nation than a left-wing Stalinist one.
The racial philosophy of North Korea differers from, say, Nazi ideology in a subtle way because they are not necessarily claiming racial
in the sense of having superior intelligence, talent, or the like. Rather, they are claiming a kind of moral purity that can perhaps
be compared to a state of childlike innocence. This supposed innocence, the theory goes, has made Korea the victim of countless more heartless races
and powers over history: the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians, and most recently the "Yankees." Thus, goes the theory, these absolutely pure and
naively moral people need a strong leader to act as a kind of parent figure and provide the necessary protection against a harsher, crueler, less
moral and more aggressive external rule. Hence the exceptional devotion to the Kims -- the aim of their propaganda is to psychologically fuse the
minds of the people with a parental, and specifically maternal, devotional instinct towards the leadership, which is intertwined with a race-based
sense of uniqueness. One can see how this would make for an effective totalitarian form of control.
It is this rationale that leads to North Korea's peculiar form of personality cult. The leader is seen more as a protecting mother
than as an
. The latter mode characterized Soviet- and Maoist-style communism -- there, the focus was on a fatherly figure and on
intellecutal learning of the state ideology. According to Myers, the North Korean case places far less emphasis on intellectual development or arcane
ideology such as the Juche Idea, which (he believes) is really a kind of smokescreen to keep the outside world from grasping the more race-based inner
ideology of North Korea. Instead, it is devotion and emotion that is much more played up. He even makes the case (using examples of art, literature,
etc.) that the Kims are intentionally portrayed in a rather androgynous way, to elicit feelings of maternal devotion.
Its a very interesting theory...I'm not really qualified to pass final judgement on it, but I just thought I'd toss that out there for your
[edit on 4/20/10 by silent thunder]