Hysteria, sadness, wailing, tears, anger. All can be seen in the video. To many viewers it would appear that the death of Kim Jong-Il has rocked the North Korean nation to its very core and that they have lost a man they adored with every ounce of their being. That conclusion is easy to come too but if you dig deeper what you'll find instead is a different outpouring, an artificial one.
In 1994, Kim Il-Sung the eternal leader of North Korea died. He was a popular figure and just like in the video above there was hysteria and floods of tears aplenty. The same process is occurring all over again for his son. North Koreans are flocking to monuments to pay their respects. Not out of love but out of safety.
North Korea is a very complex dystopia. By all accounts there are informants to state police around every corner, listening to every word. There is no privacy and each building complex has its own correspondent to the state police who will report each week of any odd dealings or signs of dissent against the party. For this reason, much like in 1994, you have no choice but to follow the crowd. Staying home or curling up in bed and taking the morning off while others mourn is not an option. If you are not in attendance then you are not supporting the party, if you are not supporting the party then it's very likely you'll need to be re-educated or sent to a labour camp (a modern gulag). One of which you are unlikely to ever escape.
In the excellent Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick a young North Korean teacher retells the events on Kim Il-Sung's death. How she was made to go daily to the monument to mourn, much like is happening right now during the official mourning period. Also doctors, nurses, party members, soldiers, students, all must pay homage. In the mass gatherings, hysteria breaks out. Each person trying to out-do one another. Stepping up to the monument with no tears would be an act of treason.
Thus, much like the scenes you see above, the wails escalate and as one tries to out-do another it descends into a huge outpouring.
It's not as simple to say that everyone is play-acting however. This is a nation fed endless amounts of propaganda and to some Kim Jong-Il will be missed. He is portrayed as a mother-figure who protects the nations with his diligence against the evils of the outside world. With him gone there will naturally be fear and worry that the perceived evil of America, Japan or the South will attack and enslave the population as Japanese colonizers did pre-1945. The loyalists to the party that reside in Pyongyang will have lost the leader they know who was groomed for power and was entrenched in the party. Now they face uncertain times with a young, relatively unknown leader who is now blessed with a nation to run. For those, the emotions are real.
The video at first appears shocking but it's what is inside the minds of those who dwell on the edges of society that is now most important. Those loyal party members are likely to stick resolutely to the rules but those who have suffered at the hands of the party will be the ones secretly celebrating. The children who roam the streets each day desperate for food or the women who have to sell their bodies in order for them to have a simple meal. They are the ones that are thinking, perhaps secretly trapped away in their minds as they fall to the floor and weep in public, Kim Jong Il's death may be for the best.
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