It was 1928 when Josef Stalin turned 50, and the USSR celebrated. It is 2015, and while North Korea is turning 70, Kim Jong-un’s age and persona is an enigma. His state is a clear-cut machine of propaganda with which this year aims to inculcate the message of productivity and pride in 310 different manners.
On its 70th birthday on Aug. 15, there will be no giant posters to worship at a plaza, and there might not even be fireworks. However, on Thursday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea released slogans that they believe sum up what they are hoping to achieve this year: “a country of mushrooms!”
There is a certain element of sensationalism that arises with publicity. It brainwashes a public into continuously thinking of a “socialist fairyland.” It makes people believe that the next year will be full of “fruit and other trees,” “profit” and “perfect harmony.” Yet, does the public in North Korea really feel this way?
Almost constantly, incidents demonstrating a lack of progress are reported. Promises of greenhouses and less famine have been going on for years, according to escapees like Lee Min-bok, who fled North Korea 14 years ago. But the citizens are only improving their memory skills by being drilled with propaganda they must know. No one is improving their lifestyle.
It is common to think of other Socialist states and their objectives when talking about North Korea. For example, there is a high probability that Kim Jong-un’s propaganda and the image he is building for his republic will be a reminder of the image Stalin built around him with his cult of personality he used to create an image for the USSR. Nevertheless, there are stark differences.
North Korea has stagnated and is not growing economically. As it tries to brainwash its citizens, it is achieving nothing, because its citizens are able to see through the aims. Stalin attempted to brainwash USSR inhabitants as well, and as it would be with any group of people, there was a collection that did see through his intentions. However, the USSR’s economy at the time was growing, and the country was considered a Great Power. As much as the people knew what was happening, they were seeing results. The North Koreans are only seeing words.
Moreover, it is interesting to note the violent element a few of the words released have, where citizens are urged to “play sports in an offensive way” and should enemies enter the country, to “annihilate them.” While the fierce nature is urged against the enemy, it is important and necessary to understand that a lot of the residents might be viewing the state as the enemy. In an attempt to maintain power, is North Korea choosing a right approach to maintain the country?
The violence, assertiveness and confidence in these new slogans highlight values that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are expected to have. The republic truly wants to believe that this brainwash will make the citizens into the patriotic bunch they expect, but what the republic has not realized is that their publicity has become mundane. The citizens of DPRK are not inspired by an anniversary or by new words. They are tired.
Stalin turned 50 in 1928, and the USSR celebrated. Albeit in fear, the citizens were made to be models of what the Soviet Union stood for. North Korea is turning 70, but with this age and experience, the public is not turning energetic, only older. The North Korean citizens do feel fear, but their productivity does not mask it. North Korea does not have the resources to mask the fear and exhaustion of their people into 5-year plans. On Aug. 15, the new slogans will be accepted, but they will not be embraced or revered. There is a long road ahead to a “socialist fairyland.”