Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Kim Jong-il: First Time Tragedy, Second Time Farce . . .

Crossing Baekdusan?
(Image from 3 Quarks Daily)

The image above, obviously derivative of Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon Crossing the Alps, is borrowed from Colin Marshall's interview with North Korea expert Brian Myers on "Immersion in Propaganda, Race-Based Nationalism and the Un-Figure-Outable Vortex of Juche Thought" at 3 Quarks Daily. I presume that Myers uses the image in his recent book, The Cleanest Race, as an example of North Korean propaganda . . . but is it juche distraction or fascist kitsch?

The image looks nearly like a still shot from the obtusely ridiculous video, "Kim Jong-il Shouts Out Loud," which I linked to in a post once before. Readers might not recall that classic of grandiose praise for the Dear Leader, so here are the lyrics to jog memories and encourage re-viewing:
When General Kim Jong Il was born
the clouds opened up
and he came down from heaven,
and then there was a huge avalanche.

When General Kim Jong Il shouts out loud
storms always happen.
"Let's go! Let's go!"
"Let's go! Let's go!"
Kim Jong Il shouts to the mountains.
Apparently written to assimilate Kim Jong-il to the god Hwanung -- who Korean myth tells us descended from heaven the day the skies opened to engender the Korean race -- the video and its lyrics merely succeed in making 'General' Kim look ridiculous.

To us. Maybe not to the North Koreans.

To understand this sort of thing in its context, read the fascinating interview with Myers about North Korean propaganda, of which there are two streams, juche for outsiders and extreme nationalism for North Koreans:
Juche Thought is a jumble of humanist cliches like "Man is the master of all things." This fake doctrine has absolutely no bearing on North Korean policymaking. While people are wasting their time trying to make sense of Juche Thought, the regime is propagating this race-based nationalism.
Myers also describes this in his book, an excerpt of which can be read in the New York Times. I haven't yet read the book myself, but I know his thesis from a dinner conversation with him, Andrei Lankov, and a couple of other individuals at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Seoul and from listening to him lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society of Korea, both of these occasions being about three years ago.

I'm no expert on North Korea, but I would differ slightly from Myers and suggest an inner connection between juche thought and race-based nationalism, namely, that North Koreans are the only race to have perfectly exemplified juche.

As for Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire, it probably needs an updating by now, for North Korea exemplifies both farce and tragedy.

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At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Timely post Jeff.

I noticed on the 14th that Dearest promoted 100 guys to general officer status (almost besting 1997's record of 129).

I wonder. Ya reckon all them new generals are gonna get signed copies of that painting? Did the Norkies make a video of the song?

The lyrics look like it could be kinda catchy.


At 1:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

This looks like an old song, JK. The 'Dear Leader' is still young and vigorous.

So . . . I think those generals will be getting different lyrics.

Jeffery Hodges

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