Key Pillars of a Regime Losing its Grip
- [Prospects for North Korean Change] Part 1.
Early 2011 has seen democratization fever sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. Tunisia has already witnessed a successful revolution and the entire Jordanian leadership has been removed by King Abdullah, while the people of Egypt are still struggling to put an end to 30 years of the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship and 20,000 or more protesters took peacefully to the streets of Sanaa in Yemen yesterday to demand the departure of their dictator.
In many instances, social networking sites like Facebook are now playing a key role in spreading information about these unfolding events. However, there is at least one place where the power of these sites has yet to reach. Watching the region's undemocratic regimes wobble, watchers may wonder whether the North Korean leadership can ever be made to face a similar day of reckoning...
On January 1st, 2011, in a city in Hamkyung Province, instead of memorizing the New Year’s Common Editorial, Kim wrote some simple words denouncing the Kim Jong Il regime, burnt a photo of Kim and took some photos of what he had done. He gave the pictures to a smuggler and asked him to send them to South Korea. The photos are set to be revealed by The Daily NK soon.
In the southern part of Shinuiju, colored leaflets denouncing Kim Jong Il were recently distributed. A man in his twenties was arrested by the National Security Agency on suspicion of circulating the leaflets, which were probably externally produced, but subsequently released. Upon his release, the young man went back about his work, smuggling, going back and forth to China as usual.
However, some other people were later taken in by the NSA on suspicion of anti-regime activities, one of whom died under interrogation, according to sources. Therefore, rumor has it that this young man was released by the NSA as a secret agent.
These cases show that while idolization of the Kim family and multiple public monitoring systems are the key tools of a pre-modern totalitarian dictatorship which has reigned for more than 60 years, the system is not as effective as it used to be and is engaged in a battle to keep a grip on the people.
Kim Young Su, a professor at Sogang University in Seoul told The Daily NK yesterday, “The claimed moral justification for and legitimacy of Kim Jong Il is higher than for any other national leader. Due to such complete education, it is hard to have any different thoughts about the leader.”
However, Professor Kim went on, “Comparing present-day North Korea and that of 20 years ago, the social atmosphere has changed a lot.”
“They have still not stepped over the threshold of change,” he cautioned, but added, “When the flow of information into the North takes full effect, we can imagine the state Egypt is in coming to North Korea.”
Therefore, even though the regime was able to maintain its power in the late 1990s as two or three million people starved to death and tens of thousands of people fled the country, we an say that the times are changing.
The indoctrination of the people has started waning. People have been exposed to information on the outside world and propaganda claims of “heaven on the earth for the people” have been revealed as barefaced lies.
DVDs, MP3s, smugglers coming and going to China, defectors and the like have overturned the old order and fundamentally altered public awareness.
If Kim Jong Eun cannot control the system as his father did, he is likely to fall. Even without Facebook, the eyes of the people are now open.