North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the entire world. It’s also one of the most fiercely nationalistic. This leads to all manner of insanity, and the Internet is rife with examples of North Korea’s anti-American propaganda, as well as tales of the behavior of its leader Kim Jong Il.
However, it’s rare to get much in-depth information about the country. This extensive interview with B.R. Myers, author of The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters, is very illuminating. A random interesting snippet:
I read a women’s magazine recently which warned housewives against what they called “the housewife disease,” and if you read the description of the housewife disease, it’s quite obvious that they’re talking about an STD…they give the disease that name to make it sound more harmless, but when you look at the symptoms which are described in the article, it’s very clear what kind of diseases they’re referring to.
Now there’s a classy term, “housewife disease”.
The truly great nuggets are things where the North Korean propaganda machine really works, with everything from Potemkin villages to vigilantly watching how former Kim Il Sung was photographed.
Whenever you have a state that professes belief in the purity of the race, you have a state that has a very hard time acknowledging the existence of people who are physically challenged or perhaps mentally handicapped. The North Koreans don’t know even how to explain things like that…This is why the North Korean regime had such a hard time with Kim Il Sung’s tumor. For most of his adult life, Kim Il Sung had quite a sizable tumor on the back of his neck, and the North Korean propaganda apparatus had to photograph him from one angle so that this tumor would never be known to the North Korean population.
It’s both funny and fascinating to imagine this sort of manipulation. Read the whole interview for much more.
Update: Several readers have pointed out the parallels to American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was crippled at a young age. While similar, it seems FDR’s condition was far better known. He himself worked to minimize it, and the media treated it as a private matter (now there’s a concept), but it was not entirely hidden from view.