01/10/2007, 00.00
KOREA SOUTH – NORTH
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Pyongyang: budget to deify Kim Jong-il increasing

In a time of hunger and famine, nearly 40% of the national budget is earmarked for the construction of thousands of statues depicting Kim father and Kim son. The allotment is double what it was in 1990 in a bid to counter the disaffection of the people that is fuelled by “soft globalisation”.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Spending on the cult of the Kim family has reached 40% of the total budget, according to a study by the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy of Seoul. The deification budget has increased although funds earmarked for defence, education and welfare have been dwindling.

 

In 1990, expenses for divinized propaganda amounted to around 19% of the North Korean budget. In 2004, according to the report of the Institute, the amounts allocated were doubled to reach nearly 38.5%.

 

The rise in spending to enhance the cult of the Kim family has served to finance the construction of around 30,000 statues of Kim il Sung (father) and Kim Jong-il (son), sculptures in rock, gym exhibitions, education programmes and everything that could boost the propaganda drive.

 

The main reason behind the increase in propaganda investments appears to be the need to counter the creeping influence of the modern world. "It isn't quite realized in the West how much of a threat the penetration of ideas is. The regime of Kim Jong-il sees it as a social problem that could bring down the state," says Brian Myers, a North Korean expert at Dongseo University in South Korea.

 

Since the late 1990s, a subtle influx of entirely new products and ideas – hence destabilizing for the regime – has been entering from the borders with China and South Korea. Some analysts have described this as “soft globalization”. Pocket radios, CDs, videos, cellphone signals from China and practically any other product of the western cultural industry are feeding a rich form of underground trade.

 

Smuggling appears to be on the increase in defiance of tough penalties imposed by the regime: for example, those caught listening to broadcasts from abroad risk being sentenced to forced labour.

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