A Parade For the Dead Corpse of Kim Il Sung

[imText1]More than 50 military divisions participated in the gymnastics presentation, and this is excluding the army’s marching band. Not only does life become more systematic but training becomes harder. At the 4.25 training centre, there is an exact replica of Kim Il Sung Square, and it was here that more than 50 divisions had to participate in a general rehearsal. While daily training was considered the a glorified act, everyone agreed that the gymnastics routine performed in Pyongyang was an art.

A person who could not perform a high-kick the best would be placed at number 25 in the line, or in other words, placed on reserve. A “reserve” is always on stand-by just in case there is an injury or illness by another member in the ranks. Though the reserve still has to train like the others, unfortunately, he/she may never have the privilege of participating in the grand event.

One’s position has an enormous impact on the trainee. If the trainer detects even the slightest attitude of discontent by the trainee, then the person would be expelled from his/her position. The idea of being denied the honor of standing at Kim Il Sung Plaza after training day and night for 1 year is the worst thing that could happen to anyone.

Whenever I was exhausted from training, I would get a sudden impulse and think, “I wish the American bastards would instantly died from a missile,” but whenever I got the feeling that I may be removed from my position, I instantly paid attention again.

Family visitations prohibited during training periods

Life at 4.25 center was no different to life in the military. On top of having to wake up very early, other activities resembled army life such as blanket regulations, line inspections, meals, training and cleaning inspections. Above all, blanket regulations in which we had to fold and hang the blanket immaculately was a needless and most arduous task. If the blanket was not straightened perfectly, the trainer would watch you suffer as he/she made a mess of your belongings.

The general rehearsals were held every Sunday afternoon. However, competition amongst each division is so severe that the sessions run endlessly. Even though the Overseeing Department puts a blind eye to the indecencies that occur. Training officers shout, “Polish the stage floors immaculate so that you could eat a sticky rice even if it fell!”

Family visitations are strictly prohibited while you are training at 4.25 center. Undoubtedly, people with money or connections can easily pay their way to see their parents.

Training is only one of the duties at 4.25 center. Trainees must also attend political events and hence armed with ideology. Once we had to sing a song titled “Where are you, my beloved leader?” more than 50 times in unison. After singing the same song 50 times, you became totally disgusted with where you no longer want to see your beloved leader. Furthermore, each division formed “socialistic competition.” Our division even woke up at 4.30am to gain first prize in the competition and even began a ‘mosaic wall enterprise.’

As the big day draws near, you must learn to stand in rank and in line. Following a signal, you must march rhythmically in one perfect line. As you pass the grand stage you must yell in a loud voice “horray!” while performing a very high kick. If you are out of line in the slightest, you are pulled aside, placed on the ideology podium, insulted and ridiculed. No matter how hard we university students tried, we were of no match to the military schools. Students from Kang Kun Military School or Kim Jong Sook Naval University, somehow displayed the utmost perfect order.

Guaranteeing “a successful event for the dear leader’s love”

General training still occurs in the winter, there are many days where the fields are covered in snow. During these times, we would all be mobilized to sweep the snow and habitually say, “We detest the Americans bastards, but second to that is snow.”

Two months prior to the big event, we caught the train down to the Kim Il Song Square and practiced as if were the real day. There was always a lot of commotion on these days as people came to the side of the road to find their family and friends. However, on these days, the Kim Il Song Square was always blockaded and so it was hard to actually find someone you knew.

As the big day drew near, all participants were given a uniform for the day, shoes and belt. A commemorative parade medal was also presented. In addition, each division held meetings where participants took an oath to ensure “a successful event for the dear leader’s love.”

The trainees undergo even greater hardship as the actual practice begins. You are expected to make greater stamping sounds with your feet but the quality of shoes distributed by the nation is so low that the nails fixing the sole to the shoe often penetrated into our feet. Within our division, there was only 2 out of 25 people who did not suffer these pains.

Finally, the big day arrived. Though it was ‘the day’ we were not allowed to polish the buckles on our belt or our gold buttons. The sunlight may reflect off these gold colored items if they were too shiny, and hence discomfort our leader’s vision. On the day prior to the big event, we practiced until 3 in the morning at Kim Il Sung Square but were only given porridge soup the following ‘grand’ day.

On the day of the big event, officers came to inspect and confirm our participation in the event. We waited until 9AM for the event to commence and to enter the field with the military division. We waited in angst as the deafening sound of the microphone blockaded even the breath of tens of thousands of people. Prior to the event, we were given a sedative and three tablets to calm our nerves but there were still some people who fainted.

1 year of painstaking hardship for 1min 40sec

[imText2]At last, it was 9AM. The welcoming song (played when Kim Jong Il appears on stage) was played in the distance and the whole assembly yells horray!

I can’t remember that day very well. I do remember my head changing into a mist of white and my feet and hands feeling light. I can’t decipher if I really did go past the grand stage or whether it was just a dream. I do remember affirming myself, “This may be the only opportunity in my life. I must remember the dictator’s face well.”

However, the event only lasted a brief moment. Actually, 1min 40sec. After spending a whole year, day in and day out for a fleeting 1min 40sec. Nothing remained in my head.

On the train back to 4.25 center, all the trainees shed tears quietly. Their hearts would have been as sad as mine. Thinking back on the cold, the heat, the hunger and obsession for what? A measly 1min 40sec.

Following the presentation, the university students headed for the Mt. Keumsoo Memorial Palace (the tomb of Kim Il Sung) passing by the Pyongyang citizens waving alongside the road. The square at the end of Mt. Keumsoo Memorial Palace is 415m long and was constructed in commemoration of Kim Il Song’s birthday, April 15th.

A parade for the dead corpse of Kim Il Song

The university division would only be released after another performance at Mt. Keumsoo Memorial Palace. Looking back on it now, it is rather absurd that so many people would participate in such a short event merely for the pleasure of one man, let alone a dead one. Yelling Kim Il Sung’s name and shouting hurray while performing in front of his tomb is also a dumbfounded act that should not be burdened upon anyone.

I never did believe the training would end. After the big event, we had to write a “devotional diary.” We were also inspected on this. On re-reading my diary, I discovered that on entering the 4.25 center, I had trained at Kim Il Song Square on 556 different occasions. In the end, we had spent whole year training for 1min 40sec and had accomplished 556 rehearsals.

On returning to university, participants of the event were given leave to rest and visit our hometown. Once, a republic came to participate in a performance. Back then, all the participants were given a color television as a gift. Since then, whenever a gymnastics performance was held, all participants anticipated what gift they would receive.

When I completed my presentation and returned home, my parents were placed in an awkward position as the neighbors asked, “What did the son bring home as a gift?” All I had received for participating in the event was a uniform, belt and shoes that poked the sole. In addition to that, I was rewarded arthritis in the knees and symptoms of indigestion.

I do not have any real memories of my time as a freshman in university. Once a healthy and strong student, the gymnastics training only filled me with sickness. All that remained was my instincts to dance, instincts of heat, hunger, lethargy and pain. In the end, I was only left with shame.

Please do not laugh or applaud during the performance

During that year of training, I learned of the contradictory Chosun (North Korea) society where people are treated as robotic toys and the existence of an appalling stench, namely the rich. I have one request to all the readers. If you ever have the opportunity to observe one of these performances, please do not laugh nor applaud. The scene you watch is a forced act churned by blood and tears of Chosun people.

By applauding, you are treating the people indifferent to skilled monkeys displaying their talents in a show. And if you laugh, then you no longer consider the Chosun people as human. Though we live under the rule of dictator Kim Jong Il with little humane decency, please remember that we Chosun people are indifferent to you.

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