No one can mourn like a North Korean. At the very least, no one can PRETEND to mourn like a North Korean.
In a country where not writhing on the ground overcome with emotional pain over the loss of a political icon may land you in a freezing work-camp, the ability to weep on command is a survival tactic.
Than again, all that overwrought weeping may not be faux for many present in the thousands laying flowers at the just-about-religious shrines to the younger and elder North Korean despots.
This is a nation where party messages are broadcast into your house via loudspeaker, party portraits must be kept spit-and-polish clean lest you be reported to authorities with the power to ruin both your own life and the life of everyone you love, and where every good thing that happened in the past hundred years can be directly ascribed to the North Korean leadership.
It’s likely at least some of these people really do feel as if the entire world they knew and trusted has come to a grinding, horrible halt.
Barbara Demick’s account of North Korea’s mass-grief over the passing of Kim-il Sung is excellent – and the overwrought, often forced hysterical grief she describes seems to be being repeated with the death of his Bond Villain like son. (Except not one of the cool Bond villains).
Now, the world waits with bated breath to see what happens next. Will sucessor Kim Jong Un take an even more extremist path and take on the world in an attempt to prove he’s a worthy successor?
Of course – the non-entity Kim Jong Un, merely 27 and apparantly even less charismatic than his father (who did have some dark, nerdy semblance of style) will probably be controlled behind the scenes by some savvy handlers until he either attains some margin of independent spirit.
Either that, or we can await a military coup – which may be either good or bad for the rest of the world, depending on who comes to power in that particular shuffle – or (less likely) some sort of profound liberalization of the DPRK.
South Korea watches from behind the DMZ, perhaps thinking “Oh, Christ, are the hillbillies going to finally want back in?” Reunification will be both economically and culturally brutal for both nations—but then again, the starving, belagured people of North Korea deserve better. They’ve been suffering long enough.
I should add that if allegations that the 1990’s famine killed 2 million in North Korea are true – and I’m inclined to believe, though North Korea isn’t talking even if they DO know – well, that’s a human tragedy on par with the deaths that occurred under the Khmer Rouge.
Maybe the DPRK is a *little* less execution happy – but slow deaths by starvation and overwork in prison camps? Is that really much better than being shot in the head? It’s a dark question, but one the leadership of North Korea would, in a better world, have to answer.