Propaganda keeps citizens as defiant as ever
BY ERIC TALMADGE
The Associated Press
PYONGYANG, North Korea – The United States and Japan have already announced plans for new sanctions over North Korea’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch, and the U.N. Security Council is likely to deliver more soon. Cross-border tensions with Seoul are escalating quickly and even China is starting to sound more like an angry neighbor than a comrade-in-arms.
But with a storm brewing all around them, North Koreans have their own take on things — and it’s decidedly unapologetic.
Pyongyang started off the new year with what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb test and followed that up with the launch of a satellite on a rocket condemned by much of the world as a test of banned missile technology. When Seoul responded by closing down an industrial park that is the last symbol of cooperation between the two rivals, Pyongyang lashed back, expelling all South Koreans from the site just north of the Demilitarized Zone and putting it under military control.
Each move brought a new round of international outrage. But while
the motives of Kim Jong Un’s regime are — as usual — a matter of speculation, ask a North Korean what’s going on and the reply is swift, indignant and well-practiced.
It’s the United States’ fault.
“It’s not right for the U.S. to tell our country not to have nuclear bombs,” Pak Mi Hyang, a 22-year-old children’s camp worker, told reporters as she walked with a friend near Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Sunday. “The U.S. has a lot of them and tells us not to have any. It’s not fair. We’ve been living with sanctions for a long time and we are not afraid.”
Candor in street interviews is rare in North Korea. Pak and others who agreed to be interviewed were mindful of the fact that speaking out of turn can have severe repercussions, especially when talking to a U.S. journalist with his North Korean escort.
“We have a lot of hatred toward Americans,” Pak said, politely, before walking on.
It hard to discern exactly how much of that is political correctness, North Korean style.
But anti-U.S. sentiment in this country does run deep.
That is partly because the relentless propaganda that depicts Washington — which has made no secret of its desire for regime change — as its biggest existential threat. But it also reflects the brutality of the Korean War, which left millions of Koreans dead and most of North Korea’s cities and industrial base in ruins.
Though called the “Forgotten War” in the United States, it is anything but forgotten in North Korea.
It is used by authorities to rally the nation around anti-U.S. feeling and a common outside enemy, and it also resonates with many North Koreans who remember wartime suffering or have family or friends who died in the fighting, which the North says was started by the United States and South Korea.
And since the 1950-53 war ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, the United States is still technically and literally “the enemy.”
Reflecting that sentiment, Kim Cho Yong, a 49-year-old who works at the ministry of coal mining industry, said he feels “proud of the H-bomb.”
“We made a big step in making bombs so we are not afraid of any attacks from the enemies,” he said. “No enemy can attack us because we have an H-bomb.”