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Kim Jong-il looking at not very much fruit

NickM has a nice piece up today at Cats about a website called Kim Jong-il looking at things. He picks out a picture of Kim looking at some fruit:

What fascinates me about that image in particular is that whilst the side of the fruit stand facing Kim is laden with produce the side facing us looks a bit sparse. The Russians might have had Potemkin villages but it takes the true Juche lunacy of North Korea to have created the Potemkin fruit stand.

What fascinates me about these pictures is what often fascinates me about Potemkinity of all kinds, which is how it so often achieves the opposite of the desired effect. It presents what its presenters, now themselves probably living quite close to starvation (never mind all the regular people of this wretched country), imagine to be a miracle. But when the rest of us, out here in non-Kim world, look at their sad little picture, we merely shrug and note that capitalism of the most feeble and emaciated sort can do that with one arm tied behind its back, on a wet Thursday morning in an economically depressed inner suburb of a city that has been in relative decline for a century. We look at it, and we say: is that the best you can do?

For me, the obvious thing about Kim’s faked up fruit stand is that there is so very little fruit on it, compared to what there is room for. My local market, just the other side of Vauxhall Bridge Road from me, is a cornucopia by comparison.

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6 comments to Kim Jong-il looking at not very much fruit

  • Dom

    The site should be called “People looking at Kim looking at things.”

    It’s funny how, in some of the pictures, Kim is dressed shabbier than the people looking at him. He’s a man of the people!

  • Even funnier is when people from these sorts of places visit the west and accuse us of Potemkinism because what they see cannot possibly real. I recall a North Korean delegation whose response to a traffic jam in Seoul was to accuse the South Koreans of staging it to impress them. Also, I can think of a story about a Cuban baseball player who defected and joined a major league team in the US, and who was taken aback by the buffet that was provided after a game, it being the most impressive feast he had ever seen.

  • Cousin Dave

    I wonder if fruit in NoKo is sort of like the old joke about fruit cake: there’s only one load of fruit, and it goes wherever Kim goes.

  • bloke in spain

    And you’ve all got it so wrong:
    The Beloved Leader is of course contemplating the latest product of the Peoples Patriotic Plastic Laminated Particleboard Factory.
    IKEA tremble!
    Your nemesis confronts you!

  • Eric Tavenner

    Did you notice that the stands in the background of the fruit photo are bare.

  • Biff

    I made a remark about the Kim Jong-il looking at things website a while ago on another forum: “Also interesting to me is the tension that underlies a lot of the photos. Ever been the person who has to show off the hot, new technology when the CEO comes to visit? Similar thing here, only the consequences of a bad presentation might be a little greater.”

    For creepiness, it’s hard to beat the Kim Jong-il “Looking at Girls” entry.

    Another line of thought: presumably, these pictures did not see the light of day without approval. They convey an intended message. Interesting to compare that with some of the photos on the official White House flickr stream, which I have no doubt is similarly self-conscious about conveying messages.