Weeping for Kim

There isn’t really any informed comment I can make after viewing this video from North Korea, showing the reaction of people to the death of Kim Jong Il, but it’s incredible, and a bit scary. The video comes from the Korean Central News Agency which has plenty more videos of weeping people here.

NPR’s Daily Picture Show blog has images from recent visits inside North Korea, most of which point out the obvious:

There is an eerie similarity to many of the images photojournalists bring back from this enigmatic nation. There seems to be a surreal order and a visual symmetry to daily life, which appears highly orchestrated. Bursts of color appear in an otherwise monochromatic landscape. The images can be mesmerizing — and seem to prompt more questions than answers.

update 3:09 p.m. On All Things Considered just now, NPR’s Louisa Lim in Seoul said that when Kim’s father died, officials considered public displays of grief to be a “loyalty test.” Those who remain dry-eyed lost their jobs.

  • The tall kid nee soldier at 0:19 is overdoing it a bit though. The girl at 0:36 in red has it down better.

    In all seriousness, the fear of being targeted, jailed, or worse by North Korean military and police would have me fake-crying in a rather believable way, too. Or, for that matter, crying for real at the thought of one of Kim Jong-il’s kids taking power.

  • Greg W

    I can’t help but envision a lot of things in N. Korea as some sort of facade where if you look closely, all of the concrete is just gray Styrofoam.

    Is it just because I was a pre-teen at the end of the Cold War era? We soon learned the great Russian Bear was mostly just a lie.

  • Jim Shapiro

    “All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely hoping that they can mourn impressively enough to get their bi-monthly ration of fetid dog meat.”

    -Kim Shakespeare

  • Sue Daniel

    Read the book “Nothing to Envy”. It is an amazing book about the culture and life in North Korea. I couldn’t put it down and it helped me understand North Korea better.

    The pictures about the people’s reaction to their leader’s death is necessary for their survival. If they don’t react enough they can get reported and possibly sent to a work camp – i.e. torture camp. Their life, 24 and 7 is dictated by the political party and their allegiance to their leader.

  • David

    They might even be genuine tears. I’ve heard it said that the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t know . Sadly, things could get a lot worse in North Korea.

  • John P.

    From what I have heard, the people of N. Korea are so cut off from the world, and have been fed so many lies for so long. Maybe they actually believe they lived in paradise under the late “Dear Leader”.

  • Dean Carlson

    I thought that was filmed in Milwaukee’s Koreatown after the Packers lost yesterday.

  • Kassie

    I agree that at least some of these people are not faking it. They are probably scared and at least a little brainwashed. And with the new leader being very young and having little experience, they could be in for very tough times ahead, and possibly a military coup.

  • tboom

    Whether or not North Koreans believe everything they are told, no doubt they are patriotic. In North Korea I see citizens being united (manipulated) into a patriotic cohesiveness by government misinformation and lies which create a “North Korea versus the world” mentality. As an outsider from the U.S., I can easily see the destructive nature of this patriotism.

    I’d argue that although extreme, this fervor isn’t unique to North Korea.

    Of the weeping Bob said, “… it’s incredible, and a bit scary.”

    My questions for discussion: How many of us believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the UN and said so? How many of us believed weapons of mass destruction was a good reason to go to war with Iraq? How many of us thought going to war in Iraq was a “bit scary”? How many of us didn’t say much because of the patriotic fervor of the time?

    Let the “flaming” begin.

  • Jim Shapiro

    tboom – Well said. In the case of the US population in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, silence was based on conformity, ignorance or consent.

    In this instance in Korea, shrieking is probably survival.

  • Mark

    I don’t have any first-hand experience with N. Koreans, but one of my English students in Seoul said that some years back South Korea had invited some North Korean students for a goodwill tour and she was a chaperone. To make the students feel welcome some posters of Kim were put up, when the students saw them they freaked out and started sobbing and tearing the posters down, as apparently posters were an affront to Dear Leader. I expect that some of that devotion is real.

  • tboom

    Not that it’s really comparable, mourning President Kennedy, 1963.