Monday, April 19, 2010

B.R. Myers in the NYT on changing North Korean imagery

B.R. Myers has an interesting article in the New York Times on how the Juche cult that props up Kim Jong-il has been kicking into high gear, with a few changes:
The approach of back-to-back centennials, each symbolic of a national coming-of-age, puts great pressure on Kim’s successor and son, Kim Jong-il, to improve living conditions for the masses.

So far, his response recalls the Soviet joke about Leonid Brezhnev “fixing” his stalled train by pulling the curtains and pretending it was moving. The North Korean regime, having been relatively cautious in its economic propaganda for decades, now boldly promises that the North will attain the status of a “strong and prosperous country” by 2012.

The drastic transformation is said to be already under way, thanks largely to production increases effected by “C.N.C., ” or computerized numerical control. The English-language acronym, an incongruous sight in this most xenophobic of countries, now turns up in everything from wall posters to children’s songs.
The language purism in the DPRK proclaimed by the self-described cultural guardians of Korea makes the usage of any foreign-language term uncommon, much less an abbreviation from English (the language of imperialists, one of two). One wonders if North Koreans are being prepared for greater exposure to outside technology, which is full of anglophone jargon.

Anyway, the article makes for a good read since Mr Myers and his colleagues Ri Myongsu and Ri Pyongjo have translated some recent examples of the new emphases. Of course, one can always read the KCNA itself for similar prose. His opening paragraph, about North Koreans partying like it's Juche 99, was also amusing.

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