Is North Korea Brainwashing its Children?
In this Washington post article written by Anna Fifield, the topic of the personality cult culture of the Kim family’s reign over North Korea is discussed. The ideology first started with the late former leader Kim Il Sung, known as the eternal president, who was portrayed to be like a deity to his people. Even after his death, the Kimist mythology continued on and can be seen everywhere in every day life throughout the country, from the education system, to the workplace and home
There is no escaping the Kim personality culture, and it is engraved in the minds of its citizens each and every day, even starting from a young age. The article quotes former citizens and their recollections of singing songs about Kim Jong Il in school about how hard he works for his people. Another tells of how in kindergarten children are given milk which was considered special because the teachers would tell them their ‘dear leader’ provided them with it out of his love and consideration. Even lessons are centered on the Kims, from math questions about Kim’s army, to “revolutionary history” about ideas or things their leaders did. Young children at the age of seven are made to join the Children’s Union, an organization where they pledge their allegiance to their leader and nation. Once they turn fourteen though, they move up in ranks to the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth league and move their focus to worshipping the Kim family.
Outside of the school system, homes and workplaces are also exposed to the worship of their leaders through controlled media. Trains are even decorated with portraits of their leaders, which are to be cleaned with a special type of cloth every day. To me, this all seems quite extreme and questionable, but seeing as these people have been exposed to this all throughout their lives, some even born into it, it can become as normal as breathing. By utilizing every aspect possible and exacting control over almost everything, including fear (towards the outside world or inside with executions and camps), the Kim family ideology has successfully become the dominant traditional group.
When taking this into context with what we have learned in class, and from our readings, the Kim ideology can be seen as a successful religious organization. As Rodney Stark described, the position of an effective and charismatic leader is present, member commitment is high (with the whole nation a following), which allows for high fertility levels, socialization mechanisms are present throughout all aspects of life, and internal solidarity is strong since North Korea is very much a closed off nation from the world with limited ties outside. It is clearly the dominant tradition, as D. Bromley and J. G. Melton would describe, seeing as it is highly aligned socially and culturally. What I think will be interesting to see is that with the globalization of the world, will the Kim ideology continue on, or will a new movement just as radical emerge.