Dispelling the myth of a brainwashed populace is one of the main goals of the book “North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors”.
Despite horrific prison camps, lack of Internet, and a national fabric called “vinylon,” most people still take the risk to watch a foreign film, regularly consume South Korea pop culture, party, and even argue with the police.
The authors claim that, contrary to what one might expect, young people actually look forward to that time when they are sent away for compulsory agricultural labor because “it is an opportunity to party every night and meet members of the opposite sex.”
All of this, of course, raises the question of the country’s future. The authors Tudor and Pearson spend a chunk of the book outlining and explaining the North Korean power structure largely orchestrated by Kim Jong Il, from the Kim family itself to the shadow government dubbed—with true Communist rhetorical flourish—the Organization and Guidance Department.
Despite the slight erosion of central power, the authors don’t really think the regime is going away anytime soon. In fact, the authors compare the current shift to that which took place in the 16th and 17th centuries in Korea. At that time, the kingdom was under assault from both the Japanese and the Chinese, which partially cleared the decks among the ruling aristocracy and allowed the rise of a new group of merchants. Instead of trying to take over, however, the merchant chose to marry aristocratic families that had fallen on hard times, giving the new money status and the old fresh cash and blood.
Today, the authors contend, “The new, rising capitalist class generally seeks to join the existing elite through marriage and business ties, rather than undermine it.” But then again, this is North Korea, so who really knows what will happen.
[The Daily Beast]