Distrust Behind the Tears

The day after the announcement of Kim Jong Il’s death, the North Korean people’s reaction released through domestic and foreign media seemed not much different to that when Kim Il Sung died. However, the ‘grief’ of the people is quite different, reflecting deep distrust toward the former leader.

Following Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, people were in extreme grief. Crying people were seen and heard in every corner, and the vast majority was sincere.

In front of Kim Il Sung’s Statue, people lined up to offer their condolences endlessly. Despite the organized events at the Party factories, spontaneously the people mourned, visiting statues. There were also a significant number of people who cleaned the statue on a daily basis without compulsion.

However, the atmosphere is quite different this time. The people are more organized, and volunteerism is absent.

The initial reaction of the people was very calm. From the afternoon on the 19th, people reluctantly began ‘expressing sadness’ and ‘mourning’ in front of Kim Il Sung statues. At commemorative events in regional North Korea, ‘crying genuinely’ apparently stood out more than crocodile tears.

A Yangkang Province source on the 20th in an interview with the Daily NK said, “Adults and children are climbing up to Bocheonbo Battle Victory Monument, and in some gatherings I heard that some people fainted while crying. However, unlike 1994 when Kim Il Sung died, the atmosphere is not one of everyone wailing loudly.”

The sources explained, “After Kim Il Sung’s death everyone cried and wailed but they aren’t now. I’m surprised, there are people crying but there are some who are indifferent to his death. Mainly children are walking towards the Bocheonbo Battle Victory Monument crying loudly but most adults are putting on a face of grief.”

Sources from North Hamkyung Province said regarding the reaction of the people, “The people who came to the Kim Il Sung statue to offer their condolences are crying deliberately because they are being watched.”

Again, unlike the mourning of the people after Kim Il Sung’s death, the majority of people show no emotion once they turn their back on the statue.