Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Orwell's Korea

While working late one evening, I flipped on the television as I was doing some manual labor. The show playing was a documentary "Welcome to North Korea." I was only half paying attention as I moved computer equipment and cables around the room. But the more I heard and the more I watched, the less important my labor became and the more I was pulled into the documentary.

What I saw, if accurate, was grotesque and scary. There is no other place I know of that so closely parallels George Orwell's world of "1984." We saw tourist attractions with no tourists; only tour guides pre-approved by the government that give tours filled with honorific references to the late leader Kim Il Sung. Streets are devoid of old or handicapped people; they have been sent to outlying areas to live. War museums explain the atrocities of the Americans during the Korean war and we feel the genuine hate for America that still boils in the blood of the military men that were interviewed on camera.

We heard from a North Korean defector who now lives in South Korea. He used to be a "reporter" in the propoganda department. He told of the time he was sent to report on a story where thousands of birds had spontaneously gathered to "bow their heads to Kim Il Sung." When he arrived, he was greeted by party officials who explained that the birds had just left but that it had been an amazing sight. The reporter later asked a farmer if he had noticed anything out of the ordinary. No, was the reply. I assume he returned home and wrote up the story about the birds and their honor for the Beloved Leader.

We heard about the attempts by North Korean officials to create a mythology about Kim Jong Il, the current leader of North Korea and son of Kim Il Sung. For example, the story was told that Kim Il Sung was born in a mountain cottage. Soldiers nearby felt that something very special was occuring and carved an inscription in a tree to commemorate the event. The site became a tourist attraction where Koreans could come learn to adore their new leader. One day, a Japanese botanist was touring the site. Upon hearing the story of the carving in the tree, he noted that the story was impossible given that the tree didn't exist when Kim Il Sung was born. The tree was cut down and the site was closed.

The video footage we saw of the people in genuine anguish at the death of Kim Il Sung was painful to watch. If only these people understood the pain he had caused for them!

North Korea is a sad commentary on socialism and communism. The desire to make everyone equal, while seemingly noble, has worked to grind the faces of this people into the ground. What is astonishing is that they don't recognize it but instead venerate the very villians that have crushed them. This people, stripped of ambition, have submitted to a monstrous regime. I pray for their eventual deliverance.

One thing that was never mentioned in the documentary, but everywhere visible, was the beautiful Korean culture. The dances were intricate and beautiful. The North Korean people are a beautiful and worthwhile folk. They deserve better than the devastation that is being heaped upon them.

Here is another review of the film. I can't find a place to purchase it online, so you may have to wait until it is shown on public television again if you want to see it.

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