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Kim's propaganda machine keeps North Koreans in the dark
The Sunday Telegraph ^ | February 2, 2003 | Julian Manyon

Posted on 02/01/2003 4:57:30 PM PST by MadIvan

While their government stokes the nuclear crisis with America, most of North Korea's inhabitants remain unaware of the threat, reports Julian Manyon in La Jin

"Our people are ready for war," I was told by an official in North Korea, during our two days inside the country masquerading as businessmen. But in the town of La Jin, 50 miles from the Chinese border, we saw no signs of military preparation.

Instead, the impression was of a population dimly aware that tensions are rising but one deliberately kept in the dark about the reasons for the worsening nuclear crisis and its government's role in provoking it.

Last week, American spy satellites showed North Korean workers moving fuel rods around the key Yongbyon nuclear complex. Adml Thomas Fargo, the commander of American forces in Asia, asked for extra troops and ships to bolster South Korea.

One of the few successes of the North Korean regime has been to keep its people in a time warp and television has proved an invaluable tool.

As I waited for the news on the single, state channel that broadcasts about six hours a day, I sat through programmes about a water pumping station and life in a toothbrush factory.

Model workers declared their gratitude to the country's leadership, their eye movements indicating that they were reading from a board behind the camera.

When the news finally began, it was devoted to the meeting between a visiting Russian delegation sent by President Putin and the Great Leader, Kim Jong Il.

A caption informed viewers that the meeting had taken place four days earlier - hot news, by North Korean standards. The Russian visit, as was widely reported in the West, was an attempt to mediate in the nuclear crisis. This fact was not mentioned.

Instead the commentator, in rousing tones reminiscent of British Movietone News, reported that the Russians had come to pay their respects to the Great Leader, who in turn expressed his affection for President Putin.

The diplomatic courtesies of the two sides were shown at interminable length with the apparent objective of portraying the portly and eccentrically coiffed Kim Jong Il as a respected figure on the world stage.

There was no hint that North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and the threat of war were what had been discussed.

A series of propaganda messages followed, delivered over idealised pictures of workers and soldiers, exhorting the population to be united and have "hearts of steel".

Viewers, fed a diet of films and "documentaries" about the Korean War in which the Americans are portrayed as brutal aggressors, can have no misapprehensions about where the threat lies.

But just in case, the regime has begun a nationwide poster campaign urging its people "to smash the US imperialists' moves to stifle the DPRK and defend the nation's right to existence".

Our guides seemed a little better informed than the general population, thanks apparently to the "study groups" that workers exposed to foreign influences are required to attend.

Dutifully, they recited the propaganda: the US wants to attack North Korea in the same way that it is attacking Iraq, but that the North Korean people are ready to resist and will make a sea of fire.

Only once did a guide go "off message" when he confided to me, before rapidly changing the subject, that he knew North Korea was more backward than other countries.

Another inadvertently revealed that he had enjoyed the fruits of Western life: he let slip that he had recently watched what must have been a bootleg video of Titanic and was much smitten by Kate Winslet.

Improbable as it seems, Kim Jong Il's regime still tries to base its appeal on the supposed sagacity and farsightedness of the Great Leader, hailed by a children's choir in a school that we visited as the greatest in the world.

The message, as it has been for years, is one of stability and continuity. But the regime has been forced to reform food distribution and wages, and a taste of economic freedom may prove highly destabilising.

The longstanding policy of paying workers only a token sum while providing free food and clothing seems to be being abandoned.

Wages, which were set at the equivalent of 50p a month have apparently climbed to about £20 a month in what seems to be an effort to free up food distribution by introducing a market element.

The famine (our guides called it "the difficult period") appears to be easing, at least in the area that we were permitted to visit. This has been accompanied, perhaps helped, by the first glimmerings of officially sanctioned free enterprise.

A primitive open air food market now exists in La Jin. Drably dressed customers seemed glad of the chance to rummage, even in sub-zero temperatures, through small piles of stunted vegetables and fish still caked in mud.

Our guides forbade us to take photographs and were evasive when asked how the market worked. Needless to say, it is whispered that those doing best out of the new arrangements are the local party officials whose whim determines who can trade and who cannot.

It seems, however, that the stallholders, uniformly sturdy women, are often related to fishermen or farmers who work for the state but are being permitted to sell off "surplus" production.

Certainly, the innate human instinct for ownership has not been extinguished. When we were taken to meet a model fisherman, who was dressed in his party uniform complete with badge and lived in a surprisingly well-kept cottage near the sea, I asked about his hopes for the future.

His reply had nothing to do with the workers' paradise or the Great Leader. "To leave this house to my son," he said.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; US: District of Columbia; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: blair; bush; kimjongil; northkorea; nukes; propaganda; uk; us
North Korea's moniker of "the hermit kingdom" is well earned. One can only hope that changes in the regime will occur that will end this terrible and pitiful isolation.

Regards, Ivan

1 posted on 02/01/2003 4:57:30 PM PST by MadIvan
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To: carl in alaska; Cautor; GOP_Lady; prairiebreeze; veronica; SunnyUsa; Delmarksman; Sparta; ...
2 posted on 02/01/2003 4:57:43 PM PST by MadIvan
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To: MadIvan
Time for our spyops folks to drop thousands of HF radios all over them.

Truth leads to overthrow.
3 posted on 02/01/2003 5:09:40 PM PST by MonroeDNA (What's the frequency, Kenneth?)
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To: MonroeDNA
You would have to give them entirely new radios and TVs if they were to listen to foreign broadcasts. The TVs and Radios that are currently used in NK are made so that they can only listen to and watch the state run media.
4 posted on 02/01/2003 5:20:57 PM PST by FBDinNJ
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Yes, new radios.

It's a start!
5 posted on 02/01/2003 5:30:47 PM PST by MonroeDNA (What's the frequency, Kenneth?)
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To: MonroeDNA
Yes, new radios.

It's a start!

Yes, perhaps even ones with Transistors in them.
6 posted on 02/01/2003 5:35:37 PM PST by tet68
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To: MadIvan
The North Koreans are past masters at making themselves a total nuisance at what they percieve to be critical and vulnerable times in their major enemy's (read USA) decision cycle.
What a great opportunity for them. I can see it now, Kim Jong and a few of the boys slugging down cognac and watching the antics of his Pleasure Platoon. Suddenly, the Dear Leader, whose military prowess is matched only by his mustachioed amigo in camel country, has an idea. "Hey! Let's use 400 of our remaining 500 gallons of gas to drive trucks up to that lake where we dumped all those rods. The Migooks will think we're getting ready to go into production again. With our buds in Baghdad making the Yankees look one way, and those simple bastards in the American anti-war movement seizing on every bit of nonsense thrown their way, the old generals and politicians who still can't believe we've managed to hold out this long will be screaming about what a threat we are, and then we'll get to blackmail the saps out of more food aid, POL and hard currency. Am I a genius or what?"
7 posted on 02/02/2003 12:39:13 AM PST by MadJack
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To: MadIvan
Kim's propaganda machine keeps North Koreans in the dark

Gee, I thought it was the pathetic lack of electricity that kept North Koreans in the dark.

8 posted on 02/02/2003 11:56:05 AM PST by Poohbah (Beware the fury of a patient man -- John Dryden)
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