For foreigners who visit North Korea, minders are a constant presence. Besides translating, they tell journalists and tourists where they can and can’t go, and impart the official line on everything from relations with the U.S. to the proper way to refer to the regime’s leaders. And they have a few pet peeves:
What to Call the Country. North Korea is not North Korea. Rather, it is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPR Korea or DPRK. Completely out of bounds is “the hermit kingdom”; minders say the term is deeply insulting to them. South Korea, with whom a war in the 1950s culminated in an uneasy truce, is known in print as “south Korea,” with the south in lower case.
How to Address Leaders. North Korea has a government, but there are only three people who really matter–and two of them are dead. Kim Il Sung, who founded the country and died in 1994, is often “eternal president,” or “great general.” His son Kim Jong Il is “chairman” or “dear leader.” Kim Jong Un, who took power after his father passed away in late 2011, may be called “supreme leader” or “dear respected”.
Those Kim Pins. All North Koreans wear a pin over their left breast featuring the face of Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il–or both. The most common one is a shining red flag with the two men’s portraits. But don’t call them pins. That word undermines their significance. As one minder said after consulting translation software on his phone, they are “badges.” continued