Wednesday, December 21, 2011

North Korea: The Power of Indoctrination

The rest of the civilized world has been lamenting the sad state of affairs in North Korea for over 50 years. The nation is closed to the outside world. There is no free press, political parties, mobile communication or internet.

North Korea has been a dictatorial dynasty since 1945 and the last 17 years it was "ruled" by the dead "Eternal President Kim il-sung". Since very few outsiders have visited the country, all we have available are documentary videos and books.

So far I have seen three documentaries made about North Korea.

Welcome to North Korea by Peter Tetteroo  ,  "The Vice Guide to North Korea"  and 

"National Geographic's Inside North Korea"

The first two were filmed with permission from the North Korean government and is almost identical in substance with choreographed tours of the city and boring museums trips. The narrations however does convey a great deal more than the visuals. Throughout both films   the crew were accompanied by minders and guides therefore contact with the general public was missing.
The last documentary  by National Geographic was filmed without permission, by a film crew that accompanied cataract surgeon Dr. Sanduk Ruit. Dr. Ruit was on a mission to treat as many cataract patients as possible within a period of 10 days. Meanwhile the film  crew  secretly filmed what they could in and around the city. This revealed a more shocking aspect of the people's state of mind rather than the economic condition or political stagnation.

The visible results of indoctrination is clear towards the end of the film, where local patients who were blind till then thank their dead leader for giving them sight instead of the doctor who performed the surgery. People are seen swearing unconditional allegiance to their Orwellian leader Kim Il Sung and his (recently deceased) son Kim Jong Il.

It wouldn't be wrong to conclude that the indoctrination and propaganda in North Korea has been complete and successful.  So strong is the power of indoctrination that the people do seem to truly love their leader. Their leader does not seem to be a mere mortal. He is a god. And by definition gods are infallible.

If there was a benchmark for dictators Kim Il Sung would certainly rank right at the top. People are seen  praying to the images and statues of King Il Sung with god like reverence. Any display of irreverence towards the leaders  by locals or foreigners are dealt  severely. The behaviour is not unlike how religious people deal with their god figures.

It is also believed that entire families and extended families could be sent to concentration camps for disloyalty or disobedience. Indoctrination combined with fear of repercussions from the authorities seem to have completely wiped out any voices of dissent against the regime resulting in a kind of "Stockholm Syndrome" towards their dead leaders.

More than anything else, The reality of North Korea  exposes a very significant behavioural pattern about society. If people are led to believe in a god, be it human or otherwise, they will believe and allow themselves to be led by those doctrines. Kim Il Sung has become the de-facto god of North Korea. An atheist in North Korea would essentially be denying Kim Il Sung. Affecting any sort of political change in North Korea would require the destruction of this god concept impressed on the minds of the people by the state.

And that may not be an easy task.

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