‘Jongbuk’ Takes on New Meaning

Jongbuk’ is a word used commonly by North
Korea’s state-run media when criticizing South Korea. It literally means ‘to
follow the North’ and is used to refer to pro-North Korean forces, but this
term has taken on its own meaning among members of the public in the North.
Daily NK has learned that these days, jongbuk is being used to describe blind
followers of Kim Jong Eun’s leadership. 

“The word ‘jongbuk’ has been used a lot in
the papers and television to criticize the South these days, and now it has
become a new term used by many people in daily life,” a source in North Pyongan
Province told Daily NK on Wednesday. “In the North, ‘jongbuk‘ refers to someone
who kowtows to others, and it’s popular for being a fun but poignant expression.”
 

In the past, people used to refer to those
who focused only on their work at factories and state-run companies as ‘passionate
Party members,’ but now they’re mostly called ‘jongbuk,’” the source explained. “People
use it as a form of sarcasm to describe people that only look above [at Kim
Jong Eun],  just like a dumb bird hitting its head against a rock without realizing
that it will kill itself.”
 

‘Jongbuk’ is also used as an expression to
describe people who go around spying on others for state security officials,”
he explained. “When trade workers go overseas and secretly gather
information on other workers to report back to the State Security Department,
people call it ‘doing jongbuk things.'”

Ostensibly, the word appears to be one that
supports political values in the country; the reality, however, is far
different, revealing a term that points the finger at the ironies of the system.
Due to the ambiguous nature of the word and its applications, people using it are
able to evade potential punishment to which they would normally be subjected by surveillance forces, according to the source.
 

Donju [new affluent middle class], who have
a monopoly on market goods, are called the ‘highest dignity’ [a term typically used to describe Kim Jong Eun]. It shows how people in this socialist society still
understand that money rules over all else,” the source said, adding that while new words often permeate North Korean society via smuggled discs filled with foreign media, many derive from words used in propaganda messages on North Korean
state media.

“Loyal or disloyal, both ways, people can
be called ‘jongbuk,’ so it has become a popular word that the state cannot hold
people accountable for,” he said. “Some women even joke in the marketplace, telling each other to stop living with their ‘jongbuk‘ husbands [who don’t know
how to make money] and instead live with the rich ‘highest dignity [donju].'”

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