In Pyongyang, people cry for food, not Kim
Joseph Yun Li-sun
Source tells AsiaNews that the grief seen on national TV “is not linked to the dictator’s death” but rather to hunger, concern about the coming winter and fear of the future. People want peace and an end to an “era” that “was very dark”.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – The sorrow expressed by North Koreans following Kim Jong-il’ death, which national TV showed with great emphasis, “is not linked to the dictator’s death. Of course, some are sad for what happened, but they are connected to the regime; they are not ordinary people. Most are crying because they are relieved as well as afraid about the future. Above all, they are hungry,” a source living and working near the Demilitarised Zone told AsiaNews.
What is broadcast, the source explained, “is propaganda masquerading as a spontaneous show of grief. The fact is that there is no food in North Korea and that 2 million people might not survive the winter. As the new dictator, Kim Jong-un (Kim Jong-il’s third son) has a reputation for cruelty, people have good reasons to cry, but we’d be wrong to think that it is the end of an era, as suggested on TV. This era was very dark.”
When the founder of North Korea’s ruling dynasty, Kim Il-sung, died, there was genuine sorrow, the Daily NK writes. His passing, the online newspaper run by North Korean exiles, came at a time when people still believed in the socialist dream. Unlike his son, Kim Il-sung was not a madman. The country suffered but not as much as under Kim Jong-il whose reign has been blighted by terrific famines.
“People are more worried about the future of the country,” a source from Hoeryeong in North Hamkyung Province said. “People will feel relieved that the suffocating rule of Kim Jong Il is over, rather than grief for the leader, they will think to themselves that ‘peace has finally come’.”
A generational factor also plays a role. “When Kim Il Sung died the people did not feel anxious because Kim Jong Il was trained well from a young age, but Kim Jong Eun does not understand the regime well,” a source in Onsung said.
“This has to do with Confucian thought mixed with Stalinist dogma,” the source told AsiaNews. “According to North Korean sociology, this mixture means that an older man cannot succeed a younger one. It would undermine a smooth transition of power. In a nation like North Korea, this is scary because everything hangs on a thread.”
Although impossible to verify, North Korea has an estimated population of 22 million, half of whom live below the poverty line of less than one US dollar a day.
Some dissidents estimate that agriculture has been destroyed by 80 per cent to boost the regime’s military plans, including its nuclear programme.
With a cold winter approaching, the authorities have neither the money nor the food to meet the challenge.