Oscar-level propaganda for Kim Jong-un

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Oscar-level propaganda for Kim Jong-un

The author is the head of the Innovation Lab of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Propaganda is the act of intentionally manipulating public opinion to lead people’s judgement or behavior in a certain direction. While it originally started with the spread of religious faith, it changed into a promotion of political systems after World War II.

Nazi minister Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) is a symbolic figure of propaganda. He cleverly used deceptive speech, grand events, newspapers, music, radio and films to manipulate the public and drove the German people to become anti-Semitic fanatics.

Last week, North Korea launched a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile. The 15-minute propaganda video released by the Korean Central Television attracted more attention online than the development in missile and transporter erector launcher (TEL) technologies.

The main character of the music video-style footage was not the missile but North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He appeared in slow motion, wearing a black leather jacket, checked the time on his watch, took his sunglasses off and sent a signal. It was clearly different from launch footage of the past, as it included scenes shot with drones and flashy editing skills.

Viewers in South Korea and other countries posted interesting comments on the video such as “The Oscar goes to Kim Jong-un” and “Kim knows humor.” While it obviously was not the intention to depict the “absolute dignity” as a joke, the video certainly softened the effect of North Korea’s provocation and threats to South Korean and Western viewers. The internal and external justification that North Korea was testing ICBMs to counter nuclear threats from foreign powers was delivered unfiltered through this “ridiculous” video.

The clip may seem childish to us, but it could be a sophisticated video to the North Korean people who have little access to outside information. In North Korea, distributing or watching a South Korean video is an anti-socialist felony. The Transitional Justice Working Group, a North Korean human rights organization, published “Mapping Killings Under Kim Jong-un” last year. According to the report, seven of the 27 public executions by the Kim regime since December 2011 were related to North Koreans watching South Korean videos, according to collected interviews with North Korean defectors. The crime has more cases than drugs (5) or murder and attempted murder (3). If you don’t want to be deceived by the propaganda, you should be able to see the un-staged reality of the North Korean human rights issue that the South Korean government has overlooked since May 2017 when the liberal administration was launched.
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