Author(s): MONTI RUTH ANN
History | No Category
Where to start with this mysterious, sometimes terrifying country? Perhaps with some hard facts - except that's not as easy as it sounds. As many as 3.5 million North Koreans - nearly 16% of the population - starved to death 1994-98. But how was that figure established? And whose fault was it? Inflexible centralised planning of the economy and agriculture, or a succession of droughts and floods, coupled to the fact that only 20% of North Korea's land can be farmed? Ruth Ann Monti teases out the facts about this dictatorship to provide an illuminating insight into a society that might just as well be in outer space for most in the West. Modern North Korea is based on an ideology Kim Il Sung developed and named Juche. It does have some similarities to neo-Confucianism, with Kim's own special blend. According to North Korea's official website, Juche means that the masters of the revolution and construction are the masses of the people and that they are also the motive force of the revolution and construction. But what this means in practice is that everything is designed to venerate Kim Il Sung and his heirs; even in school maths problems ( if x = Kim's anti-Japanese fighters and y = the number of Japanese killed, etc.). Each day the Juche calendar features some miraculous achievement of the head of state. Virtually all music, stories, and artwork reflect Kim's life and teachings. High school students complete an 81-hour course on Kim Jong Un. Everyone must wear a Kim badge at all times - even Mao didn't demand that! Only a select few men are allowed to shave part of their hair a la Kim. The 100 facts don't all make grim reading: in 1912 North Korean archaeologists discovered a unicorn lair!