NEW YORK, March 11, 2013 - On March 8 CNN carried video of soldiers and civilians running into the sea to bid farewell to DPRK leader Kim Jong Un as his boat took their leave.
The footage evidently bewilders CNN’s television commentator, who makes two errors in her reportage. She describes the phenomenon as a manifestation of “real emotional response,” and she presents the piece with a sub-text of watching something “weird” or “kooky.” She speaks of “really good stuff, all the great pictures.”
Despite her banter, this is something to take seriously.
Kim Jong Un just threatened the United States and South Korea with a nuclear attack. He just lost his sole protector in China, who joined the international community in voting unanimously to place North Korea under “biting sanctions” for recent nuclear tests and missile tests (both successful). Is this really something to giggle about? Why not report on such content intelligently?
The first thing to note about the video is that it is produced and released by Korean Central Television. That CNN has this video is not thanks to by any great feat of journalistic heroism, but simply because North Korea wants CNN to have it.
This video is Kim Jong Un’s formal, express, and deliberate response to the United Nations sanctions.
Americans and American media behaved in the same silly way when viewing footage of the mourners at Kim Jong Il’s state funeral, mocking and giggling at similar extreme displays of emotion. The history of mourning in Korea is characterized by expressions of extreme emotion. (Are we to tell a culture how to mourn?)
In totalitarian tyrannies, such as Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, all media is carefully orchestrated. These tyrannies “govern” basically in two ways; one by means of murderous oppression, and two as propaganda machines perpetuating cults of personality.
The combination of these results in recorded public behavior mandated to show the leader to be adored, loved, and trusted. In places like the former Soviet Union, and in present day North Korea, the state not only tracks your every move (just like here in the United States), but more hauntingly, and perhaps more importantly your neighbor watches you. This is why we weep the loudest, and run farthest into the sea. It is the only way to feed our family, while all around us starve, eat tree bark, and God forbid our children. At least we have a meal for our loved ones.
The state is the only arena to have work and not to starve, but it in return it is also the place where you must cry the loudest, you must run into the sea the farthest, and whenever asked, show up to perform in state run videos.
Look at the video again. Our beloved leader Kim Jong Un, though the world persecutes him, he still loves us and takes care of us. Look! He is kind and loves little children. (Hug babies anyone?) He cares. As we run into the sea he waves us to go back. Please do not get wet. But we love him so much, we don’t even notice we are getting wet. We only want to be close to him, even one more moment. We run into the sea.
All politics is domestic and international. Domestic first. Having just been dealt an embarrassing and damaging blow, Kim Jong Un must encourage his people at home. We are strong. We are united. We will prevail.
And to the international community? Sanction me all you want. The republic is strong and united. I am a good man. I am loved. I have no choice but to care for my children, my people. We must carry on as evil America tries to destroy us.
Does Kim Jong Un really have the corner on weird video? Might not a North Korean, CNN giggler have plenty of fun with “the really good stuff” showing North Koreans footage of a Pentecostal service in California? And how about the miles of column inches run in hypnotic rapture over Michelle Obama’s bangs? We ran into our own sea … of ink, in cultic and empty adoration of our “leader.” Party conventions in election season look frighteningly similar. Super Bowl half-time shows look frighteningly similar.
Americans above all, should know that people are people, similar the world over. Our media and our thinking should serve to create better understanding, and promote mental frames that inform our common humanity. News should be insightful and true, and should nudge us in the direction that helps us care for one another, and try to understand each other a little bit better each time.
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