North Korea

Tue Apr 25 10:07:51 PDT 2000

I distinguisged Kim Jr from dad in part by suggesting that Kim Sr _was_ a personality, apparently quite a forceful one with a fearsome record as a national liberation fighter. Kim Jr, from sources I have read and believe to be reliable, is an idle noodnick who collects cars and watches western movies while his advisers make the key decisions. I can't put a finger on where I read this, probably The Guardian, The Economist, Le Monde, which is where I get my international news.

Of course NK is Stalinist; Stalinism is not (as I said elsewhere) a cult of Stalin's personality, but a kind of rule and a social order that the FSU shared with a number of its allies, NK included.

The fact that leader worship may fit with with certain Confucian values may help explain it--I do not say that it does--but I am relentlessly and unashamedly univeralist in condemning dispicable and antidemocratic practices by other cultures, whether these are fundamentalist or conservative Islam, forced African cliteroctomies, or Confucian leader worship, if that is a Confucian value. Just label me as a human rights cultural imperialist. No soldiers, but lots of condemnation.

I find this defense of the miserable regime in NK depressing and puzzling. I sort of expect it from Charles, who really _is_ a Stalinist, but Yoshie and now you, I don't get it. What happened to independent socialism? Frankly, if NK is what we have to hang our hat on, the other side has won and ought to win. --jks

In a message dated Tue, 25 Apr 2000 12:21:29 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Sam Pawlett <m> writes:

> JKSCHW at wrote:
> >
> > Nor do I think that we have a cult of personality around them comparable to
> > that existing in North Korea--a situation, now that the elder Kim is dead,
> > involving a cult of personality without a personality.
> >
> Cheap shot. Low blow. What is the source of this accusation? Have you
> met Kim Jong-il? North Koreans do worship their leader but its not a
> personality cult. Noone knows anything about Kim's personal
> life. It is kept that way so it *does not* turn into a personality cult.
> The leader worship is actually worse than most people think. There are
> plaques in various places, in buildings, in people's houses, factories
> etc. announcing the last time Kim was there.
> Cumings argues, convincingly, that however strange repugnant this
> leader
> worship is to an educated middle class American, it is well within the
> Confucian tradition of respect and reverance for the benevolent
> patriarch. The language used in the 'leader worship' documents is
> Confucian: 'fatherly', 'benevolent'etc. North Korea if anything
> resembles a Confucian kingdom.
> As for Kim il Sung himself, if you want to know who he really was and
> what he stood for see *Kim il Sung. The North Korean Leader.* Dae Sook
> Suh. Colombia University Press.1994. Kim ,while in his twenties, was one
> of the leading figures in the Korean fight against Japanese occupation.
> The Japanese drafted a special death squad to hunt and kill Kim il Sung.
> Further,
> one can only imagine the resolve and steely nerves of Kim il Sung as
> the Americans feigned dropping nuclear weeapons on P'yongyang. Given the
> state of the bombings in that war, they might as well have. It is this
> kind of thing that the north Koreans worship, Kim's exploits in the
> anti-colonial struggle, in the anti-imperialist struggle and the
> building of socialism. No doubt they exaggerate Kim's accomplishments,
> but they were nevertheless real. Typical north Korean propaganda says
> things like "Koreans are engaged in an anti-imperialist struggle under
> the wise and benevolent leadership of Kim _____." or "Here is a photo of
> Kim il Sung fighting the Japanese. All Koreans should follow the example
> of the wise and fatherly leader."
> Just as there is more to the USA than pictures of Bill Clinton and
> endless stupidities in the "free press" about where he is putting his
> cigar and
> the endless worship of the constitution, there is much more to north
> Korea
> than pictures and statues of Kim.
> North Korea is and has never been Stalinist apart from the emphasis on
> heavy industry. There are no pictures of Stalin or even Lenin or Mao in
> north Korea. If you read Stalin and Kim or even Mao and Kim they are
> years apart on all
> questions. Kim il Sung and north Korea are sui generis. It is not a
> model of development but there are many worthwhile things in that
> country worth defending, such as ecological programs.
> Also, Kim Jong-il was, since birth, trained to take his fathers
> position.
> Kim jr. was born and educated in the USSR. He is in his late 60's.
> Lastly, there is no such thing as North and South Korea or N&S Koreans.
> It is a single country linked by a common (pre-American occupation)
> history. The 38' parallel is an arbitrary dividing line drawn up by
> American generals and CIA operatives, who were and are hated by most
> Koreans.
> Sam Pawlett

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