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It is enough to make you turn communist

The satirical Songun blog has dug up a North Korean propaganda movie shot in the 1980s that is worth a look. Songun has made Always Working Together For The People available on YouTube, split into seven segments (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7). Combined, there Is about an hour of video. I am a little weird – I watched it all.

However, I find this sort of thing quite fascinating; lots of interesting tidbits to be found. For example, part three sees Kim Jong-il being exhorted for easing all the Great Leader’s concerns about the people’s welfare (a common theme), in this instance in the field of “traffic problem”. What bloody traffic problem?? There Is nary a car to be seen motoring down the wide boulevards and highways shown. (Fair enough, those ridiculously broad motorways were designed to serve more than one purpose.) In part four, the two Kims are seen pouring over an architectural mock-up of Pyongyang in a manner most reminiscent of those Speer/Hitler snaps showing them admiring a model of the Berlin they were going to create after they won the war. Hopefully, the latter day town planners meet a similar fate as their similarly megalomaniacal forebears.

This propaganda piece is clearly a past effort to position Kim Jong-il as Crown Prince by welding him on to his father’s cult of personality. His leadership abilities are constantly lauded and he is portrayed as an indispensable part of Kim Il-sung’s revolution. The succession issue is explicitly mentioned at the end of segment six. Still, in spite of all the adulation, it is difficult not to laugh at the rather miserable figure Kim Jong-il cuts throughout the programme. Part 5 shows Kim Jong-il and daddy making a trip to the Dear Leader’s fabled birthplace, Mount Paektu. The glowing exaltations to the younger Kim pair most incongruously with his stature and bearing – unless ‘mountain spirit’ is a North Korean euphemism for ‘ample paunch’. Really, how can you not laugh at the spectacle of this malignant little gnome. As was said last week – and in great anticipation of a repeat performance – sic semper tyrannis.

10 comments to It is enough to make you turn communist

  • Nick M

    James,
    I witnessed a very odd spectacle over Christmas back in my (almost) home town of Newcastle (Tyne & Wear, Not Queensland). I came out of TKMax for a fag and noticed that at the base of Grey’s Monument there was a very small demonstration beginning to form. They were a revolutionary Communist group. I was approached by a rather attractive, middle-class, clearly well-educated girl who handed me a leaflet and tried to sell me a CD. We got talking while her (less than a dozen) mates were waving Colombian and Cuban flags and the inevitable poster of Comrade Che.

    Well, my interlocutor was sincere, articulate and quite charming really. In retrospect that really disturbs me – it starts with an attractive girl being mildly flirtatious and ends up with gulags. She tried to sell me a CD of “revolutionary songs” which included an entry from (I kid ye not) the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade Male-Voice Choir. I turned down the option to purchase even though she assured me it had been fully tested. The whole operation was almost charmingly amateurish – from the home burnt CD with B&W photocopied cover to the fact that her revolutionary cadre were flying the Venezuelan flag upside down (which vaguely amused me). It was completely Wolfie Smith Peckham Popular Front Half-arsed. I honestly have never experienced a more geuine demonstration of the term “Useful Idiot” than the useful idiots demonstrating in the heart of the uber-capitalist shopping district of Newcastle during the start of the January sales.

    This girl went on about how capitalism was enslaving people yet seemed oblivious to the shoppers going about their business in the middle of one of the most attractive city centres in England (as a Geordie I may be slightly biased but there is still some wonderful C18th architecture in Newcastle which was not flattened by the socialist T Dan Smith), a city-centre built entirely by capitalism.

    It was a strange interlude made all the stranger by the fact that she admitted that the (incorrectly hung) Venezuelan flags were a bit out of date because apparently Chavez has added an extra star recently and the Geordie Commies hadn’t yet managed to secure the purchase of the new flag on EBay. I said, isn’t Ebay a little capitalist? She said, “Well yes but at least our Cuban flag is really from Cuba and therefore a proper socialist flag“. I dunno whether it was a “socialist” flag or not. It looked like Nylon to me.

    As I said, it was all very odd. She seemed a really nice girl. She seemed so genuinely to want to fight injustice and make the world a better place. Well, I guess she’s still young and she might learn. Except one thing makes me think she might not. One think makes me think she suffers from a bizarre inability to see truth and reason. In my conversation with this girl she frequently spoke about “the people” but saw no contradiction between that and her obvious atavistic hero-worship of Fidel, Kim and Chavez.

    How can a truly socialist system be based upon such blatant idolatry? How can a People’s Democratic Republic be run by a “President for Life”? What kind of mind can see these two things as being compatible? I mean, seriously, doesn’t a government either have to be for the people, of the people and by the people or else be a despotic clique or the fiefdom of a quasi-divine Dear Leader who is worshipped like a God by atheists?

    Or, in short, don’t you have to be a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic in order to be a socialist?

    I passed by Grey’s Monument a couple of times later that day while shopping. The first time, they were doing “Geordie Rap” about globalisation (which was just as dreadful as it sounds – think of the kind of sounds Ant & Dec would make if they were being given electric shocks to the genitals) and the second time they’d buggered off – but then the wind had got up a bit by then and it was raining.

  • How can a truly socialist system be based upon such blatant idolatry? How can a People’s Democratic Republic be run by a “President for Life”? What kind of mind can see these two things as being compatible?

    If the absurdity of the political did not convince them, you’d think the practical realities would. I think it was P.J. O’Rourke who took a boat trip down the Volga with some American communists in the 1980s, who believed the socialist system was providing everything its people would ever want – yet they’d brought their own toilet paper.

    I’ve done a fair bit of tramping round Russia, but the biggest dump I ever arrived in was an old fishing collective called Nevel’sk, on the south west coast of Sakhalin Island. The two pictures below were taken one after another and from the same spot, by swivelling round 45 degrees. Never has the yawning chasm between the socialist vision and socialist reality been so well represented in a single place.

    The Socialist Vision

    The Socialist Reality

  • Vanya

    Well, Tim, at least they have satellite TV.

    What is the other purpose of the wide boulevards? Parades? Military vehicles? Landing strips for aliens?

    Perhaps Nick’s young girl would rather have power concentrated in one up-front person, than a group of oligarchs pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

  • Well, Tim, at least they have satellite TV.

    They have satellite dishes on their roofs. In Russia this does not necessarily equate to them having satellite TV, at least any more. :)

  • RPW

    “What is the other purpose of the wide boulevards? Parades? Military vehicles? Landing strips for aliens?”

    Almost right with the last one. I believe they’re intended as back up runways for the air force in the event that the proper airbases get taken out. Sweden designs its motorways on the same principle, apparently…

  • RPW nailed it – I was referring to the NK motorways, not so much the boulevards in the ceremonial parts of Pyongyang. Check out how wide the motorways are in this video (sorry for not embedding – the KFA bounces links, so you must copy and paste the URL into your browser)

    http://www.korea-dpr.com/fiparam.asx

  • I have heard that the excessively broad streets are, in fact, intended for parades — as a security precaution. They existed in Moscow also, where my parents grew up. Given an eight-lane road in a nation where hardly anyone owns a car, it is possible for a VIP motorcade to travel down the middle without being approached by any pedestrians or other vehicles. Anybody getting too close would be immediately spotted and interdicted. Whatever finally rids the world of Kim Jong-Il, it will probably not be the fate of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

  • Vanya

    I believe they’re intended as back up runways for the air force in the event that the proper airbases get taken out.

    Doesn’t that make it easier for an enemy to invade the country? I’m no military expert, but it seems to me Russia pre-WWII had the best strategy: build no roads at all, so an invader gets stuck in the mud.

  • nick

    Try undertaking (they hog the outside lane @80mph) a UK cabinet minister on one of our motorways , a copper sitting begind the driver flips on a “police ” sign and Range Rover pulls alongside and tries to block you.
    This has happened to me on a few occasions, the first time was 1990 John major on the m62 in a rover , fortunately I was in a Porsche 928 hung back then blasted past the two cars.
    Scum that they are.

  • I once spent about 2 or 3 solid months several years ago sitting in a cubicle, translating the North Korean Labor Party Newspaper (No-dong Shinmun) into English…

    …I can’t stress enough, that this is exactly the kind of stuff that you would read in No-dong Shinmun…

    …If you dialed it back between 5% and maybe 10%, you’d have No-dong Shinmun exactly…

    http://thebastidge.blogspot.com/2007/01/fargin-funny.html