Korean Peninsula and World Politics a Study of North Korea Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Korean Peninsula and World Politics: A study of North Korea

Having been described as one of the most secretive states in the world, where even calculations of economic indicators is a difficult job to attain, there seems to be two very different perspectives of what North Korea is and the sentiments towards it. One is obviously the sentiments of the West, which has long considered it as an enemy state due to its strict regime and censorship policies, which has provided its citizens with no human rights. USA in a fact has put up quite an argument against the regime of North Korea stating again and again how the citizens of North Korea are being suppressed under the authoritative rule of Kim Jong Li.

The second perception is that which is delivered to us through the documentary "A State of Mind" which follows the lives of two gymnastics, who are training to appear for the Mass Games -- the perfect emancipation of the North Korean philosophy of collective over individual. It follows their routine and provides us an insight into their thinking and how they themselves perceive this regime and its leader. This perception is the complete opposite of whatever is being perceived by the West. The documentary shows the high sense of love and respect that people have for their leader, whoever, and it can be argued whether the means of maintaining this love and respect are in anyway legitimate.

The documentary in its own is rather about the lives of these two young gymnasts, but it ponders on every topic that may arrive when one thinks about North Korea. There is a constant hint on the status of the women by mentioning the mother and the grandmother of these two gymnasts as housewives only.

The children, the main focus of the documentary, have the same trivial issues that any child may feel at this young age, ranging from for a need for friend or brother or sisters, or not waking up for school without resistance, etc. however, this document of the lives is enough to establish the fact that through a severe propaganda, in which the image of the Supreme Leader and the Communist state is induced into people through every form and medium, so much so that it is impossible to escape from it. You find it in the school textbooks, cartoons, in how the generation is being raised by the elders. From the elder's point-of-view, it can be said that since they lived through the horrors of the war, they have come to equally hate the U.S. And thus automatically adhere to the concept that the U.S. Imperialism Policy is such that it wants to invade each and every nation, North Korean being just one of them. There is however another factor which is being used to induce this communist philosophy of the North Korean regime; that being the Mass Games themselves.

Not only this, but even the streets are lined with poster and artworks that justify the rule of the leader and describe the horror of the war. These posters constantly aid in reminding about the horrors of the war and the destruction and the mass tragedy that took place. The posters also talk about the heroes in the form of the Supreme Leader and how his dedication and leadership is the only basis for the freedom of North Korea. The constant blackouts and air raid practice exercises, the lessons that are being taught in the class regarding America and how they can only find pleasure in invading and attacking nations are also important instruments in keeping alive the threat and constantly maintaining a state of fear. This state of fear is then linked to the Supreme Leader who is considered as the only one who can save the nation against such a threat, just like this father had done in the first war.

From the documentary, the major theme which emerges is Politics and world Affairs, which of course can't be excluded from the past and the history of North Korea. It is this past which has become the main driving force of any argument that is being presented to the nation to sustain the rule of the regime, and the hatred and the fear of a U.S. intervention is no doubt the main catalyst in this regard. But besides this, the documentary touches on all subjects; from the famine and the starvation that was endured in the 1990's called the Exodus March, to the overall world politics that is taking place, especially the recent invasion of America in Iraq.

Hong-Tack Chun describes the economy as one "which is in deep crisis" in regards to the flooding and the famine of 1995. The food condition however still has not changed much and rationing and reduction in the amount of ration allowed per person by the state is also instrumental in the current condition of economy of the state. China has been very helpful in this regard; the main aim being that through such aids it can exert some sort of influence on the overall decision making in the political circles and thus push North Korea towards the Chinese Economic System. It needs to be noted however that it is only because of these sorts of interventions and aid programs that North Korea is able to meet even half of the food demand.

Another thing that was also noted in the documentary was the energy shortage that is being faced in the state, and even in the more central areas of the capital. The raw material for the production of energy is also a matter of serious concern with China being the major supplier of oil, that too at a discounted price, and with the mining industry being utilized to a minimum due to a lack of modern technology; North Korea spends a few hours every day in the dark.

The status of women too is changing in the overall society. While traditionally their role has been limited to that being of a housewife or a home maker, they are now being seen more and more as equal of men. The main reason for such a change has been the philosophy of Kim Jong Il, regarding the juche system. Juche or self-reliance is being considered as the correct derivation of the Marxist philosophy and is associated with the Supreme Leader and his rule. Their role has also been stressed as the breeder of the new generation and more importantly as the ones who will mould and embed the Communist philosophy and commitment of the state in the coming generation. This role was seen quite clearly in the documentary, where the women and the family unit as a whole were involved in developing a collective mindset in the young gymnast. The grandmother, whose strict behavior was not welcomed by the child, was justified by the grandmother as a necessity to develop the collective mindset which is a necessity for the development of the state and more importantly, to sustain the state against any outside attack.

The main theme and the main focus of the documentary however remains the Mass Games. They are considered as the single item which consolidates the thinking and the philosophy of the regime. Their collective thinking, movement, and steps should take precedence over the individual need to rise. The preparation for the event also highlights another thing, that being the very enthusiasm of the young gymnasts to perform in front of the Supreme Leader. For them it is a matter of much pride and respect, an event for which they must perfect their skills no matter what. This respect however is also exhibited in the parents and the grandparents of these children who firmly believe that it is only because of their…

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