Residents on Reports of Kim Jong Il’s ‘Love’

Ahead of the third anniversary of the death of former North
Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang has been emphasizing the late leader’s
love for the country’s people, referring to practices by the leader that highlight his allegedly productive disposition, but residents see through the propaganda, the
Daily NK has learned.

“With the third anniversary coming up, state media is saying
there is no other leader like the General [Kim Jong Il], who continued on a
path of endless work, only getting in short naps and eating rice balls–and in
the end, passing away on a running train. But people here say what he did took
away from and ruined the state economy,” a source based in North Hamkyung
Province told the Daily NK on Monday.

“No one is naive enough to believe lies that the General
took naps instead of resting properly and ate rice balls and a few roasted
potatoes instead of his meals,” she went on. “Wives struggle so that they can
feed their husbands – even the most inept ones – cooked rice. But to have given
the General roasted potatoes and rice balls is proof that he either had no
authority, or no one under him was ever a loyal follower.”

State media during the Kim Jong Il era also promulgated this image of the
leader  as “taking naps in moving vehicles and eating rice balls in order to provide useful field guidance for his people,” but the source was quick to dismiss these
hyperbolic claims.

“The Suryeong [Kim Il Sung] grew up hungry and knew what it
was like to struggle, but the General was born a prince. He didn’t know what it
means to be hungry, so he was ill-natured,” she said. “To hold onto his grip of
power, he ruined his father’s legacy and turned the military into thugs with
his songun [military first] policy, only to pit people in the same country
against each other.”

In fact, “songun” and other language from  propaganda
once used to buttress the leader’s rule have now become commonplace in the rhetoric
used to judge and criticize his leadership. “History weighs the truth of the
past, so fabricated propaganda only drives further division between the Party
and the public,” the source asserted.

In a recent article promoting Kim Jong Il’s “legacy,” the
state-run publication Rodong Sinmun wrote, “The General first starting wearing
zip-up jackets from the 1980s, when the Party and the history of the revolution
entering their heyday,” going on to explain that the “General gave our father
Suryeong a suit and said only our Suryeong must wear a suit and tie and get
enough rest” while Kim Jong Il took on all the work.

According to the source, however, university professors in
the North parsed this same report as, “the General telling the Suryeong to wear
a suit and rest was a move to strip his father of all his highest powers.”

“Kim Jong Il’s politics began in the 1970s with him taking
away money from the state’s planned economy in the name of raising foreign
currency for the Party,” the source said. “Kim Jong Il, who worked in the
Organization and Guidance Department in the Party from October 1974, ordered a
‘70-day battle’ nationwide to deliver results in the economic sector. At the
end of the year, self-reflection session on the matter, he stated, “I am at
ease now that the Party has taken over the state’s finances.”

Under socialist systems, the state implements a planned
economic system, but with Kim Jong Il at the helm of North Korea’s Party, the
source pointed out that the State Planning Commission was unable to perform its
intended function; Kim started to focus on procuring foreign currency and the
state’s economy began to unravel.

“Kim Jong Il cut off all information from the outside world
so that people would not learn about the problematic political and social
structure of North Korea; he had people conduct weekly self-criticism sessions
to maintain absolute ideological control,” she explained. “But as people began to
understand the essence of a three-generation hereditary leadership, we keep
seeing evaluations of Kim Jong Il’s life referred to as ‘against his people’
rather than ‘embracing them with love.’”

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