Greetings, Earthlings! And now, the news…

For several years, I’ve been obsessed with Kim Jong-Il.  Fuelled by the lurid stories of high-ranking defectors, the erratic behavior and rhetorical histrionics of the regime, the Orwellian cult of personality, and the obvious contrast between the people’s famine and the Leader’s feasts, there has developed a rich body of literature debating whether Kim Jong-Il is a rational-but-isolated dictator or a cruel-and-demented pervert.  The hereditary potentate of an isolated, impoverished Communist kleptocracy, Kim Jong Il doesn’t do interviews, and never speaks in public, so it’s not easy to get a grip on his personality.

My obsession started around the time of Kim Il-Sung’s death, when I witnessed on CNN the North Koreans’ jaw-dropping mass spasm of grief.  How strange to learn that North Korea’s Communist crown prince was into fast cars, hot chicks, and French brandy.  The last few years have brought a series of grippng tales from inside the Hermit Kingdom:  “I Made Pizza for Kim Jong-Il” (part 1, part 2, part 3), by the Milanese chef Ermanno Furlanis, who spent several bizarre weeks teaching the art of gourmet pizza to North Korean army officers; Vladimir Pulikovsky’s tales of bon vivant Kim Jong-Il’s raucous, wine-soaked train sojourn across Russia in 2001.  Tales of arbitrary state terror and inhuman suffering in North Korean gulags.  The admission that teams of North Korean frogmen had kidnapped Japanese citizens — including a beautician, a schoolgirl, and a couple on a date — right off the beach. The hardy partying, heavy drinking, and random killings. All utterly bizarre and completely riveting. Just last weekend, the cover story of the New York Times Magazine featured Kim Jong Il in “The Last Emperor“, arguing unconvincingly for the he’s-not-as-insane-as-you-think school.

Of all the available sources of information about Kim Jong-Il, though, there is nothing as entertaining as the English-language version of the DPRK’s official Korean Central News Agency. What’s most fun is not the superheated rhetoric, the hilariously aggressive defensiveness, or the fantasy-world reports of international friendship and solidarity with the North Korean regime, but the translator’s English.  The stories are written in language so purple and affected it sounds like something from a 1930s B-movie.  Here’s today’s top story, for example:

S. Korean Authorities’ Treachery Flailed

    Pyongyang, October 22 (KCNA) — Rodong Sinmun today in a signed commentary brands the decision made by the south Korean authorities to additionally dispatch troops to Iraq as a product of the U.S. persistent pressure and as anti-national and anti-peace moves of pro-U.S. forces. The south Korean authorities are going to drive many young south Koreans as bullet shields of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces to please the U.S. despite the opposition and denunciation of the entire nation. Dismissing this as a dastardly act of submitting to the U.S. and an intolerable anti-national criminal act, the commentary continues:
    It is Choe Pyong Ryol, representative of the Grand National Party, and its followers who busied themselves to push the additional troop dispatch to Iraq as requested by the U.S., their master. Traitors who betrayed the nation offering great many fellow countrymen as cannon fodder of the U.S. war of aggression obsessed with greed for power and dependence on outsiders and dirty political swindlers will never be able to go scot-free.
    We can never tolerate the criminal act of driving young south Koreans to the war of aggression launched by the U.S. imperialists, the commentary says, urging the south Korean authorities to ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by the additional troop dispatch and unconditionally withdraw the wrong anti-national decision.

When’s the last time you read a headline about “treachery flailed”?  Or saw an official national news agency use phrases like “dastardly act”, “bullet shields,” and “dirty political swindlers”?  Or check out this late-breaking news bulletin:

Kim Jong Il’s Songun Politics Praised

    Pyongyang, October 22 (KCNA) — Mohamed Dioue Fofana, secretary general of the African Regional Committee for the Study of the Juche Idea who visited the DPRK, expressed full support to the Songun politics of the DPRK. As leader Kim Jong Il has pursued the Songun politics, the Korean people have bravely foiled the anti-DPRK moves of the imperialist allied forces including the U.S. to win victories, he said, and continued:
    The reality of the DPRK clearly proves the truth that a country remains shining and the nation strong when guided by a great leader.
    The reality of Afghanistan and Iraq which find themselves in such a miserable position as they are because they were weak in defence capability and the independent stand convinced me that the Songun politics of the DPRK is the most powerful political mode in the present times.
    Thanks to Kim Jong Il’s Songun politics the DPRK is known as a country steering the world politics and a dignified country which nobody can dare provoke.
    It was a clear proof of the validity and vitality of the Songun politics that progressive people of the world highly praised Kim Jong Il’s Songun politics as the guiding idea of the 21st century at a national seminar in New Delhi in August.
    Kim Jong Il’s Songun politics is a model of independent politics in the 21st century.

[In case that’s not crystal clear, the “Juche idea” is the state religion of North Korea — a post-Marxist combination of self-reliance and independence that means that foreigners shouldn’t tell the DPRK what to do, that citizens should always do exactly what the state says, and, conversely, that citizens should try to solve their personal problems (like starvation) on their own without bothering the authorities in Pyongyang, who are very busy trying to learn how to cook a decent gourmet pizza.  “Songun” translates roughly to “army-based”, so “Songun politics” refers to the policy of giving all the good food, housing, clothing, and electricity to the North Korean army, with any leftovers going to the rest of the population.  By the way, I will gladly pay good money to anyone who can put me in contact with “Mohamed Dioue Fofana, secretary general of the African Regional Committee for the Study of the Juche Idea”.] 

Without a doubt, the Korean Central News Agency is a daily must-read.

And whatever your tolerance for kimjongilia, I recommend Kim Jong Il (the illmatic)’s Journal, which somehow gets unprecedented realtime access to transcripts of the Dear Leader’s online chat sessions with Saddam Hussein, G. W. Bush, and Dick Cheney.

2 responses to “Greetings, Earthlings! And now, the news…

  1. Anonymous says:

    A must-read site on DPRK:

    It’s a travelogue by Scott Fisher, an American student of North/South Korean relations. He’s fluent in Korean, has lived for years in Seoul, and is your guide to the Airirang Festival in Pyongyang in April 2002. As a “tourist” in the country to see a gymnastics exhibition, he’s able to offer a fascinating insight into North Korea’s attempts to put up a brave face to international travellers, and some fascinating glimpses behind that mask as well.

    As for Mohamed Fofona, he’s reachable through the International Institute for the Juche Idea – Pay up.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Indeed. And their site at is great: You can order the promising book “KIM JONG IL – The Lodestar of the 21st Century”.