Some cynical DPRK humor

The Daily NK reports on how popular propaganda slogans are becoming cynical jokes in the DPRK:

Of course, North Koreans have made use of many other official slogans. “The collective farm field is my vegetable garden” (1987) is one other good example.

Originally, by alluding to the collective farm as being public property, this saying dressed labor up as an act leading to personal benefit and encouraged solidarity. However, as rations failed, workers stole grains from farms under the aegis of that very slogan, because after all, “Since this is my farm, my taking from it is not theft.”

“With 1,000ri [one ri being approximately 0.393m] of tribulation comes 10,000ri of happiness,” (1990) is another slogan aiming to suppress unrest by emphasizing unity. However, in response to the country’s continued economic frustrations, it was re-interpreted and turned into, “With 1,000ri of tribulation awaits another 10,000ri of struggle.”

Similarly, “Though the road ahead may be perilous, let’s travel it laughing,” (1998) has been changed to, “Let them laugh as they go, why are they making us go along?” and “[Life] is no laughing matter, so how are we supposed to laugh?”

“Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are a great sun for the people,” has been turned into “They are indeed the sun; if you go too close you burn to death and freeze if you go too far away.”

According to defectors, this slogan is popular for it’s accuracy; you can get rich and warm by fawning to the Kim family, but you can also get seriously burned by doing so. On the other hand, should you distance yourself from or oppose the regime, you are likely to find yourself in prison (in North Korea, prisons are known “the cold room”), where you can easily die.

“Let’s live in our own way,” (1998) is used as, “In the Party, we live well for ourselves no matter what you say.” As state propaganda continues to divorce itself from reality, the way it is interpreted offers good evidence of growing dislike of the Kim Jong Il regime.

I have also heard that North Koreans refer to people they can’t rely on as “8.3” (August 3rd) after the economic adjustment policy that sought to promote small scale, semi-private light industry.

Read the full story here:
Slogans Reveal the Real North Korea
Daily NK
Kang Mi-jin


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