North Korea’s state newspaper (Rodong Sinmun) and official news agency (KCNA) have released in recent years an average of at least 300 articles a month relating to the cult of Kim. In deifying Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, DPRK state media refers to them as “Eternal Chairmen of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK”.
The figures above confirm the scale of coverage of the cult of Kim by both the Rodong Sinmun and the KCNA.
Following the deaths of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il there was a marked increase in such articles, indicating that the cult of Kim remains a key priority for the North Korean state. This is not surprising news.
However, in spite of the regime’s efforts, it appears that there are citizens who are growing tired of the cult of Kim, and weary of the media’s portrayal of the two men as gods.
Shin Young-ha, native of Taehongdan county who defected early in 2012 and just arrived in South Korea, said in a phone interview with New Focus International that “the North Korean state is busy praising the two dictators. But many citizens respond sarcastically and blame the state. If you were to refer to Kim as ‘Eternal General’, not a few North Koreans would reply, ‘Eternal Suffering of the North Korean citizen.’ This feeling may have been stronger where I lived because we were near the border,” she testified.
Kim Jae-woo, who defected from Pyongyang in 2012 and is now in China, said in an email interview with New Focus International, “When I was in North Korea, I often had the opportunity to look at the Rodong Sinmun at my father’s workplace. But I never bothered to read it closely because it was completely uninteresting. The Rodong Sinmun is full of boring propaganda articles. You only need to read a week’s worth of the newspaper to have had enough of a year’s worth. It was that repetitive,” he explained.
It is the same with television. A defector from North Hamgyong, Kim Shin-wook, told us “Whenever there was a documentary about Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on television, I would turn it off. It was the same story every day, so I didn’t see a point in watching it.” He added, “The television programmes I’ve been watching in South Korea are so varied, I can’t ever turn my set off.”
“In North Korea,” he continued, “many people are sick of hearing the same thing over and over again. There are even those who dare to curse when they come across statues or other things connected with the cult of Kim. Of course, that’s only in the presence of a very close friend; but still, it’s a sign of how much North Korea has changed.”
Park Jae-ho, who defected from Pyongsung in 2011, told us “Today’s teenagers are beginning to question the divinity of the cult of Kim in North Korea. They ask, “Why?” when it comes to the system under which they live. It’s safe to say a questioning attitude is on the rise.”
The North Korean state persists in its efforts to fan the flames of the cult of Kim through newspaper articles and broadcasts. Yet doubts are beginning to enter into the minds of North Korean citizens, and most significantly, they recognize this doubt in others.