Yes, it’s really like that. The distress, the wailing: Video of North Koreans after the death of Kim Jong Il

Posted on December 19, 2011

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Check out this video of North Koreans bereaving the loss of Kim Jong Il. (HT to Business Insider)

Yes, it is unbelievable.  When you get to 1:20 of the video, watch the kids in the background look around as if it say – “I guess we should do what everyone else is doing.”  Throughout the video, you can see eyes shifting around – everyone is watching everyone else.

Here’s the thing – it’s really like that in these countries.  My Ukrainian mother-in-law tells stories about days as a school child when the teachers required students to stand and pledge allegiance to the state and recite portions of the Soviet Communist belief systems.  As she told it to me over Thanksgiving this year:

You would look into the teacher’s eyes and you would know it’s all a lie. He would look at you and know it’s all a lie.  And you knew that he knew it was a lie, and he knew that you knew it was all a lie. Everyone pretended because you didn’t know which of your friends or co-workers would report you and your family to the police.

I spent several years living and working in Kazakhstan.  While it’s no longer communist, President Nazarbayev enjoys a cult of personality not indifferent from what you read about North Korea. While you won’t get imprisoned or shot for opposing him (well not usually, except for Altynbek Sarsenbayev or Zamanbek Nurkadilov who committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the chest then once in the head), the fear of government is very real and very pervasive.

(While in Kazakhstan, I taught at a university led by a Korean.  He escaped from North Korea as a child and always referred to “South Korea” as “Korea” – there was no north and south.)

Here’s the Business Insider article.