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North Korean worship wall collapses

The ever alert Mick Hartley links to this story:

A mosaic wall erected in the North Hamkyung Province town of Musan to idolize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il collapsed shortly before the April 15th “Day of the Sun” festivities for the birth of Kim Il Sung, sources from the region have reported to Daily NK. They claim that corruption led to poor construction, and this left the mosaic unable to withstand recent high winds.

This is the first known occasion whereupon a piece of state construction for the idolization of the North Korean leaders has collapsed in this way. Given the rarity of the event and the seriousness with which the North Korean leadership takes the idolization project in general, serious censure is thought likely for those deemed to have been responsible.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Well, I know what I’m thinking. Who gives an expletive deleted about some ridiculous wall of worship that collapses, when people in North Korea are starving in their hundreds of thousands, and probably millions?

The answer, of course, is: the rulers of North Korea. A key moment in the history of a tyranny comes when the tyrannical system in question no long works even by its own tyrannical standards, and instead starts making the tyrants themselves appear ridiculous, even to themselves.

I therefore consider this a significant story. Not the least significant thing about the story being that it got out:

“A lot of people witnessed the collapse because it was built in the town center, so this news will spread rapidly and could easily become political.”

By the sound of it, it already has become “political”.

16 comments to North Korean worship wall collapses

  • Jacob

    Disscusion point: Should the US bomb NK, before it is too late ?
    This was proposed in a NY Times op-ed here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/opinion/bomb-north-korea-before-its-too-late.html?_r=0

    I popose that Samizdata editors make this a main-post “disscussion point”.

  • Dave Walker

    Other religions have – paradoxically – survived the destruction of buildings significant to that religion by natural events; for whatever reason, the question “hey, might we be worshipping the wrong God, here?” doesn’t seem to get traction.

    I suspect the PRK’s state religion of dead-Kim-worship will survive this event, too…

  • Jacob

    I’ve seen pictures of a huge appartement blok, 10 0r 20 stories high, which toppled and fell. It was in China. Didn’t cause regime change.

  • Mr Ed

    Atlas has already starved, so he’s too weak to shrug.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post – and good comments.

    Although North Korea is no China.

    The PRC is following the Nazi policy (1930s not 1940s) of tolerating large scale private business as long as it is no political threat to the socialist state.

    National Socialist German statism was greater (fundementally greater) than British statism in the 1930s (one reason that output per person was twice as high in Britain as it was Nazi Germany) – but Britain (and the United States) are much more Welfare States now than they were in the 1930s – and China is vastly bigger that Nazi Germany (so this spells trouble for the future).

    Contrary to the morons of the “liberal” Western media, it is North Korea that is more sincerely socialist in its economic policy.

    And that sincerity makes it economically weak.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Jacob & Dave Walker, I think that the exact nature of the embarrassing event is of secondary importance, though not zero importance given that miracles are regularly ascribed to one or other of the Kim dynasty, and none of that nonsense about a devil’s advocate either.

    The most important factor is that the story got out, first within North Korea, and then to the outside world.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    A related thought… when a totalitarian regime is at full strength it can get people to say that 2+2=5, to use Orwell’s example. The act of making people say ridiculous things and deny obvious things reinforces the regime’s power. Keeping embarrassing things secret is only half the purpose; the other half is that people who have lost their self respect find it hard to rebel.

    Which is why this suggestion that the regime was unable to get people to remain silent about what they saw might be a sign of hope.

  • Midwesterner

    There is a common misperception that despots are selfish individualists run amok. They aren’t. An individualist would not be so vested in their public image as to build monuments to themselves. Most individualists would not want the job badly enough to even care what ‘the people’ think.

    But collectivist leaders, like their followers, do not have a ‘self’ identity. Like the followers, they draw their identity from their collective. We as individualists will never empathically understand the importance of all of the statues and monuments to collectivist leaders and followers. This particular act of corruption is nothing at all like a simple building collapse. This act undermines their collective identity. The perpetrators will be treated not as criminals but as treasonous.

  • Mr Ed

    Here is a fascinating documentary about four US soldiers who defected to North Korea in the 1960s, Crossing the Line. Proof that there is no cure for stupid, they tried to defect to the USSR after a few years. Two died, one got out, one left. If they are trying to raise their children as spies, they have made a mess of the accent of the son of the main character whose speech stands out a mile.


  • Dom

    Ed’s link is won’t work on desktops, just mobiles. This is for the desktop:


  • Mr Ed

    Sorry Perry, thanks Dom, will load up from computer in future. You can see a well-fed North Korean citizen there, who is, for now, safe from the IRS.

  • Surellin

    “Put government in charge of worship walls, and in five years there will be a shortage of worship walls” – Milton Friedman

  • veryretired

    Every one of these totalitarians and their cadres claim the right and competence to run everything, direct everything, control everything.

    And, as the underground humor and unlicensed media always talk about during the totalitarians’ reign, and the “insider” histories invariably talk about after the regime falls, the actual administration of the all knowing, all powerful dear leader and his cadres is notable for its utter incompetence and rampant corruption.

    We’ve seen the exact same story played out over and over again, from Italy to Germany to the Soviet Union to Mao’s China, with any number of minor dictators and fledgling autocrats thrown in for good measure.

    The stories coming out of such diverse places as Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina under Peron, and others merely reinforces this story line as an inevitable result of the coercive assumption of total power over a society, its people, and every aspect of their lives by some puffed-up, self-important elite.

    The flamboyant incompetence and crony-corruption of the current regime in the US is as unremarkable as it is despicable.

    So many critics of those of us who espouse the maximum for the individual and the minimum for the state launch into all these convoluted and esoteric arguments about why we’re naive and unrealistic and on and on.

    The reality is so much simpler—we’ve been paying attention, and realized the most obvious, crystal clear truism that can be stated about human society, and the unchecked rule of the elites, whoever they may be.

    They don’t know what they’re doing, and they never have.

  • Jacob

    Shouldn’t we add that these “leaders” are at least a little bit crazy? That is: certifiably insane, by any standard?