Some N. Koreans grow weary of a war that is forever imminent, as others yearn for it.

For the last 60 years, the people of North Korea have been told that they must sacrifice all their wants — and too many of their needs — for the sake of a holy war with Oceania that has always been imminent. Pyongyang’s media manipulation strategy shows the world’s most gullible journalists (and I mean you, Will Ripley) images of subjects who are (or who appear to be) united in fanatical, robotic devotion to the state’s war propaganda. Yet out in the provinces, the people have stopped believing it.
People have also been overheard complaining among themselves about how the government has to take such actions to create an artificially tense atmosphere, as without them, the people would show no real concern. “North Korea would suffer unspeakable destruction if war breaks out, so are they really going to attack the US?” one resident said to the source.
Evidence suggests that the regime does not have any such intentions, and is merely focusing on creating an atmosphere of war without undertaking any significant military maneuvers. Years of false claims of a coming “total war” and threats of annihilation have damaged the government’s credibility among the people. [Daily NK]
Or, in the original German, “Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg?” And the people said “nein.”*
“These latest measures do not represent any change in the regime’s strategy, and their failure to even respond to this week’s joint US-South Korea military drills with exercises of their own is further proof. They will just continue with their saber-rattling, forcing the people to the streets for daily demonstrations, taking pictures and putting on a show, but nobody at this point believes they will really start a war,” the source said. [Daily NK]
But whether this confidence is an expression of weariness or reassurance (or some combination of both) may depend on the individual. Some North Koreans say “when the war comes” as code talk for “after the regime ends.” A former member of the Pyongyang elite told me this in a conversation more than a decade ago. Here is more evidence of that.

“An increasing number of residents are pointing out that, for them [the North Korean people], provoking the US is a losing battle. We are the ones who suffer from the regime’s belligerent behavior with no consideration for reconciliation and cooperation,” he added.

Some residents are said to be welcoming the regime’s propaganda that a war is imminent, a source in North Hamgyong Province said. We want the suffering to finally end even if it means losing a war,” he said.

“Kim Jong Un is using the same old strategy of his grandfather (Kim Il Sung) and father (Kim Jong Il) to consolidate the population with threats of war, but it is not really effective anymore.” [Daily NK]

Often, I think we underestimate how intelligent, and how perceptive some North Koreans are in seeing through the state’s propaganda, yet at the same time, they may not be nearly perceptive enough about the cost of the war Kim Jong-Un is leading them into. Are their circumstances so desperate that they would gamble everything to reset the future? I suspect we’d find different answers to that question in Pyongyang, in the provinces, and in the barracks. We should help all of them understand that cost in vivid terms, along with who will bear it, and who profits from this regime’s endless war hysteria and all of the hard labor it is used to justify. History is often written by people who see only their desperation, who yearn to erase the future, and who damn all consequences. But if the North Korean people are waiting for us, they are waiting in vain. No matter the circumstance or the scenario, the cost of rebooting their future will be great. It will be far greater for them if it involves war with us. If they want a future, they must take history into their own hands.

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* The rhetorical similarities between Goebbels’s words and Pyongyang’s rhetoric today are uncanny. Said Goebbels in 1943: “Do you believe with the Führer and us in the final total victory of the German people? Are you and the German people willing to work, if the Führer orders, 10, 12 and if necessary 14 hours a day and to give everything for victory? Do you want total war? If necessary, do you want a war more total and radical than anything that we can even imagine today?” You see what I mean? But war fever and Stakhanovite exhortations have short shelf lives — historically, no longer than ten years. A state can only sustain the ideological fervor for this level of self-sacrifice for so long before the people tire of it.

5 Comments

  1. This is consistent with what I have heard from some of the defectors I have had the opportunity to speak with. However, at no fault of their own, the dots are still difficult to connect. There is more awareness of their situation compared to those of other places, especially in the South, but that does not necessarily mean a bottom-up revolution is eminent because so far people who have the political and societal wherewithal have not indicated public dissatisfaction (for obvious reasons)

    Indicators are especially difficult to spot and even more difficult to interpret in regards to North Korea society




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  2. Wonder how many functionaries of the regime are going to reinvent themselves as closet reformers, once the whole thing collapses?




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  3. What’s more insidious is that the biggest panderers and “engagers” of the regime are going to pivot and say “Look, this is what we intended all along.”




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  4. Oh, wow! North Korean apologetics does not get any better (trans: worse) than this. A triumvirate of brave anti-imperialists took the road most traveled to Pyongyang and were wowed by “the amazing infrastructure, free housing and medical care, impressive agriculture and green energy, and the many things the people of the DPRK have done so well” (Eva Bartlett) https://ingaza.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/photos-from-a-week-in-the-dprk/

    Fellow True Believer on the same school outing, Tim Anderson, has this insightful thing to say: “Carrying out ‘vox pop’ interviews with professionals, students, workers and farmers we often met statements such as that of rural co-op worker Ms Song Myong Oh: ‘of course we do not want war, but we are not begging for peace’. Most seem proud that their country is standing up to an imperial power that has occupied their country for a lifetime, while invading dozens of others.”

    https://ahtribune.com/world/asia-pacific/1883-north-korea-washington.html

    Wow! Notice that he actually says the “imperial power” is occupying “their country” for a lifetime. Well, the United States is not occupying North Korea, so what can this mean? Oh, he buys into the whole idea that North Korea is best Korea and South Korea is a part that has been removed and occupied by the United States. Holy Crap!




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  5. Thanks to angrysoba for sharing links to views shared by Bartlett and Anderson in the above comment. Freedom of speech and views are alive and well in the U.S. and for that, I am content.

    I wonder why these people did not address the issues set forth in DPRK by the sources who don’t have a dog in the fight such as huge number of people defecting to and attempting to defect to South Korea and other countries, the size and disparity of economic development versus the South, lack or absence of any infrastructure beyond Pyongyang and few other cities, the inability to feed its people, daily prosecution and persecution of its own people, killings of Jang Song Tak and Kim Jong Nam, et. al, and why Kim Jong Un is really fat…




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