Pictured is Kim Jong Un, the hyper Stalinist nerdlet, who inherited the Democratic Republic of North Korea from his papa. One thing you can be sure of: any country which feels the need to include the word 'Democratic' in its official name is anything but. Kim Jong Un probably wasn't born as such but more likely is the result of a laboratory experiment gone horribly right.
He will continue to occasionally wave at crowds as long as this fun bunch of guys, the Comrade Generals of the Korean People's Army, want him to. And the crowds he waves at will continue to wave back and smile the insane, forced smiles of those who wouldn't dare not express their continued ecstasy. But there's smiles. And then again, there's smiles. And in the Democratic Republic of North Korea it's important to smile the right type of smile.
North Korean comedienne, Lee Choon Hong, has got herself into trouble for publicly encouraging smiles of the wrong kind. The fact that there are comediennes in North Korea will come as something of a surprise to most people. Me included. Here's some details from The Daily Mail. The Daily Mail's best known political endorsement was when it welcomed the election of Herr Hitler in January 1933. Like its one time hero, Herr Hitler, it sometimes tells lies, in the nastiest possible way. But on this one, I think it can be believed.
“A North Korean comedian [sic] was sent to do hard labour in a coal mine midway through her performance after she made a ‘slip of the tongue’ about the country's draconian regime.
Lee Choon Hong, a popular comedian known for satirising and mimicking people in North Korean society, was performing for workers on a vast farm project ordered by leader Kim Jong Un when she commented on 'sensitive issues', it was reported.
The comedian was immediately taken off and sent to the Jikdong Youth Coal Mine, without even having a chance to say goodbye to her family, according to local reports.”
Now, I don't wish to be judgmental but I have a feeling that the Jikdong Youth Coal Mine is not a very nice place to be sent.
I reviewed Azalea: The Journal of Korean Literature & Culture for the Canadian poetry magazine Vallum, back in 2008.
Here's a quote from the review, which appears in full in my book Mentioning The War: Essays & Reviews (1999-2011):
“Intellectually the Korean War was (and remains) a hugely problematic question for liberal leftists; the image [in Ko Un’s poem ‘Yi Jong-yi’s Family’] of Korean peasant children smearing themselves in their own faeces out of fear of attack by US soldiers is a horrific one. And yet from this juncture it is clear to all but the most ossified apologists for Stalinism that it would have been a much better outcome for the workers and peasants of the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea, if the American led force had been completely victorious and the ‘socialist paradise’, in which they’re still imprisoned, had ceased to exist half a century ago.”
North Korea is one of the few countries of whom it can be truly said that it is a pity it still exists. I'm sure Lee Choon Hong would agree, though the Spartacist League may not. But then the boys and girls of the Spartacist League didn't wake up this morning in the Jikdong Youth Coal Mine, more's the pity.
Odd though it may seem, there is a very definite Irish connection to Pyongyang. In the 1980s the leaders of Ireland's Workers Party visited Kim Jong Un's grandaddy to kiss his buttocks in return for money. Back then, Eamonn Gilmore was, politically speaking, a small fella and never got to visit North Korea himself. But he was a member of the Workers Party. Now, he is Minister for Foreign Affairs.
I call on Eamonn Gilmore to this morning publicly demand that his old party's good friends - the rulers of the Democratic Republic of North Korea - immediately release Lee Chong Hong and allow her to leave the workers paradise in which she is detained, should she wish to leave, which I reckon she might.