06 August 2004

Heightened Vigilance against Reactionary Ideologic and Cultural Penetration

There is little as entertaining as good old-fashioned North Korean propaganda writing. There are few nations in the world that still engage in such glorious prose, and with the added skills of the translators the English version is even more interesting and ponderous than the Korean original.

The KCNA has reprinted a Rodong Sinmun article Aug. 5, with the stunning title “Heightened Vigilance against Reactionary Ideologic and Cultural Penetration.” After a read through, the core is, apparently, “be careful about American religion and pop-culture, they can both be bad influences, causing revolution and amoral behavior."

These are sentiments I am sure are shared by many around the world, with folks concerned about the “cultural imperialism of the United States (even in South Korea, they still limit the number of Hollywood movies allowed to be released each year). But Pyongyang has such a way with words that obscures the meaning as much as it expresses it, and provides tongue-twisting entertainment for the whole family.

The articles warns all the world people to beware the “reactionary ideological and cultural infiltration of the U.S. imperialists and the international reactionary forces.”
They are becoming all the more crafty and tenacious in their moves to paralyze the sound thinking and consciousness of the popular masses and reduce them to ignorant and benighted men and mental cripples blindly obedient to the given circumstances and destiny. One of their methods is to widely spread superstition.

At their instigation and with their patronage and support, the shady elements slyly manipulate those caught in the noose of superstition to commit anti-state and counter-revolutionary acts.

Today superstition is a major means and a leverage of the U.S.-led international reactionary forces for reactionary ideological and cultural penetration and through this they are seeking to break the people's consciousness for independence and their anti-imperialist, anti-U.S. fighting spirit and attain the aim of aggression and war with ease.
“Superstition,” of course, is Communist-speak for religion. On a serious note, there have been more and more South Korean and foreign missionaries staking out territories in northeast China, helping fuel the flow of North Koreans out of the Hermit Kingdom, into the Middle Kingdom, and on eventually to Seoul. The spread of religion in North Korea would provide not only an alternative center of loyalty to the state (God trumps Kim Jong Il…), but also is entirely anathema to the cult of personality-based ruling style of the Dear Leader, whose dearly departed dad, Kim Il Sung, is not only preserved in a Snow White-esque glass box for all to reverentially worship, but also is President of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea… in perpetuity. Nothing like being the ceremonial head of state from beyond the grave…
Mammonism and the bourgeois way of life are dangerous poisons nibbling at society and man .

The U.S. imperialists and the reactionaries are infiltrating into the international community mammonism prevailing in capitalist society to egg the people on to commit all crimes such as murder and robbery, ignoring public morality and order for the sake of wealth, blinded with love of money and gain. And they are leaving no means untried to disseminate the bourgeois way of life in other countries. In their virulent infiltration campaign they utilize such literary and art works as film, drama and song and such media as newspaper, TV and journal.
Now, “Mammonism” is, according to Webster’s, “Devotion to the pursuit of wealth; worldliness.” It is an interesting choice of words, given that the most prominent reference in America to “Mammonism” is, of course, from the Bible, and not only that, the words of Christ himself, a bit of an irony given the preceding warning against “Superstition.” [No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24].

The warnings against capitalism, mammonism and the like are warnings that may well be preceding another minor alteration of North Korean economic policies. Pyongyang often expands its anti-capitalist rhetoric at the same moments that it changes market practices. Given the rumors of Yang Bin’s soon release, Pyongyang may be considering reviving the Sinuiju Special Autonomous Region, a free-trade economic zone on the Chinese border, and wants to avoid letting people think too much about the potential positives of capitalism and “worldliness.”

But the comments could also be a signal of a deeper fear – the existing spread of U.S. culture and media, through radio, pirated videos or cassettes, pamphlets etc. The mentions of movies and the like suggest this may already be spreading among North Korean officials and elite who have had the opportunity to travel abroad – and maybe even liked what they saw.
The U.S. imperialists are these days maliciously trying to intensify superstition and psychological operations targeted against the DPRK. The spread of superstition, mammonism and the bourgeois way of life, the dangerous poisons destroying human soul and body and creating disorder and confusion in society, must not be allowed.
So I am left wondering… Is there a booming black-market trade in Brittany Spears cassettes and pirated copies of "Dude Where's My Car" and "American Pie"? Or is there something deeper to the apparently laughable warnings against American culture and religion…

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