[VIEWPOINT]Propaganda lulls the mindI visited Pyeongyang last fall. I was warned before my departure to watch what I said and not to make remarks that could incite or hurt the feelings of North Korean residents, because they take great pride in themselves. So, I behaved discreetly. But people who went there with me were all heartbroken with pity at the sight of the rundown city and fields and the way of life there, which showed a sharp contrast to the sacred history and theories of the great leaders ― the matchless patriots and the leaders of the whole world ― that our guide emphasized throughout the tour. I do not think that anyone was moved by the great leaders, their theories, historical sites or monumental architecture. I remember that the elderly people who once lived there simply looked for past memories, and that everyone held their tongues with great difficulty while silently sympathizing with North Korean residents. We shook our heads, thinking how horrible it would be if our country were united again when things were this bad in North Korea.
Why is it that we South Koreans were not impressed when we went to Pyeongyang? I think it is because we felt confident that we are ahead of them in the race of systems. It is our broad-mindedness that comes from the pride and confidence of the winner in the race. Well, under the present circumstances, we are the ones who have to lead national unification, so we will let you keep your pride as much as you want. It is as if we were saying, “Just don’t go overboard with your proud temper or have a fit.”
Apparently Kim Il Sung Broadcast University has opened lectures on the history and theories of the great leaders of North Korea on the Internet. Upon visiting the site, I saw that it was composed of pages filled with crudely designed progaganda materials, and a female narrator was reading stereotyped propaganda. Pictures of the historic places we visited while in Pyeongyang last year were shown, and a history that was unheard of came pouring out.
What an old-fashioned joke on the cutting edge Internet! I thought to myself, “How is this going to be accepted by our children who live in a cyberworld and youngsters who watch flashy music files and read Internet news accompanied by video images? There are no South Korean youngsters who yearn for North Korea, no matter how much they are skeptical of and hate the South Korean system, so I thought that this site could have an opposite effect on youngsters who visit it than the North Koreans intended.
Nevertheless, the media made a big deal out of the site as if it were a serious matter. Of course those who are antagonistic against the North Korean system itself and cannot accept the North no matter what could become nervous and think that it could have an effect on the youngsters of our country. Some may lament bitterly, saying it is a huge problem that lectures on the history and theories of our enemy, North Korea, come through images and voices on the Internet.
But today’s youngsters are not that irrational. They are used to momentary culture, but still have an antipathy for anything unreasonable and refuse it instantly. Anyone who enters the site will immediately sense that it does not make any sense. Even if people have complaints about the economic unfairness of our society, this site will probably be weeded out in the end if we continuously stress and educate people on the strong points of our society such as variety, democracy and the energy and superiority of our market economy.
But wait ― there is one aspect of this propaganda that I cannot set my mind at rest about. The numerous red slogan signs in Pyeongyang made me frown and my head ache in the beginning, but after just a few days I was adjusted and everything felt normal. I was worried over how we could get rid of the red slogans of praise that were engraved in rocks, spoiling the view of the beautiful Diamond Mountains, but a few days later, I started to feel familiar with their presence.
This makes me think that if the North continues to invade the thoughts of our youth, there could be young people who get themselves absorbed in the ways of North Korea unconsciously even if we think it is old-fashioned at first look. That is why I think it necessary, aside from technical measures on such Internet sites, that we must educate our children and youth on the irrationality of the content of such sites.
* The writer is a professor of law at Konkuk University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Jo Sang-hee