North Korea is the most isolated industrialized nation on earth. Nothing gets in or out unless it goes through the government, with one notable exception. The sons of the late leader Kim Jong Il traveled outside the country and may have been educated there as well.
That kind of isolation creates a populace that never questions their government. All the people of North Korea see and hear is what will convince them that the rest of the world is evil and their leaders are good. Outside information destroys totalitarian governments.
When the Soviet Union was collapsing, we were corresponding with a young couple in St. Petersburg, Russia. They told us that it had never been the broadcasts by Voice of America that influenced Russians. For the most part, they never heard any of them. It was West German television that did in the communist government. The broadcasts were coming out of West Berlin, and bled out into East Germany and western Poland. From there, they were illegally boosted and rebroadcast into western Russia. Alexei told us that they were seeing American shows like Dallas as well as German programs. They were seeing people who were living well. Natalia joked that the communist party was taken down by fashion, not politics. Russian women wanted the glamorous clothes they were seeing on German television. Russian men wanted the big cars and tech gadgets, and this was before the explosion of personal technology. Suddenly, the idea of sacrifice for the state didn’t seem so attractive.
A huge influence on the start of the Arab Spring was the internet and the social media of Facebook and Twitter. Young, educated people in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, in Jordan and Morocco, were seeing and hearing an exciting way of life, a global way of life. That fed the protests in the beginning. What they were seeing was not a decadent, immoral, anti-Allah way of life, not a diametric opposite of the lives they were leading, but innovations and information and expansion of their horizons.
When the revolution comes in North Korea, it may be wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
In the past week, there have been some interesting cracks in the North Korean repression of any images from the West. North Koreans have seen Mickey Mouse and Rocky Balboa, heard Frank Sinatra, and OMG! seen a woman accompanying their exalted leader, young Kim Jong Un. No one knows who gave birth to Kim Jong Il’s children, or even how many of them there are because the late leader was never seen in the company of a woman or identified a wife or female partner. For all anyone knows, Il had a bunch of women brought in as a breeding harem.
State television showed footage from a July 6th concert attended by Kim Jong Un in which Disney characters appeared on stage, clips of the second Rocky movie, in which Balboa fought a Russian, were shown and the band Moranbong performed the famous Rocky theme music. The only thing normal about the show was the fact that no authorization was sought for the use of the Disney characters or the showing of the film clips, and no royalties paid.
The young woman who accompanied Un has been tentatively identified as a retired pop singer who had a few politically correct hit songs a decade ago. She was dressed in a suit almost identical to the leader’s plain black, right down to the red pin in the left lapel. The photos are not close-ups, but she appears to be an attractive woman in her late twenties or early thirties. It is not known how old Kim Jong Un is.
Kim Jong Il was a secret Western culture addict, having foods and entertainment items brought in for his personal use, but never made available to the general public. His son has done something extraordinary. It’s only a tiny little crack in the North Korean Iron Curtain, but it is a crack, and it bears watching.