Go to contents

[Opinion] Mesmerized by North Korean Children and Women

Posted September. 14, 2003 22:59,   


A senior American journalist once asked North Korean officials to show him a primary school classroom when he visited the reclusive communist country. His request was accepted and he could visit a classroom accompanied by the school principal and a translator. There he saw dozens of little students writing something on their notebooks without paying attention to the visitors at all. They must have been instructed to show concentration, but the journalist later said that it looked `weird` to him for little children at about nine to keep their feelings of curiosity in check so well.

When we look at children in North Korea sometimes on TV, even little kids at four or five wear thick makeup and shout ˝We will defeat American imperialists˝ and ˝We are living in a paradise on earth with our great leader.˝ When a North Korean choir comprising little boys and girls visited Seoul a few years ago, I even shivered at their willowy voice. Children in the communist country, which is well known for its Juche (self-reliance) ideology, might grow self-reliant under directions of instructors instead of learning how to become self-reliant themselves.

The popular North Korean cheering squad last year was apparently wearing thick makeup. Then this year, a new cheering team comprising some 300 young college students wore little makeup. Last year most South Korean men were crazy about beautiful young North Korean women without thinking how undemocratic and inhuman it would be to select and educate good-looking young women for a certain mission. This year, however, they seemed to wake up from the illusion after watching the young women shedding tears over `the picture of the great leader soaked with rain.`

Good looking can be a competitive edge to women, but it can also be a source of prejudice and discrimination. It must be even so in a suppressive system where women cannot lead their own lives. When beauty means more than a psychological advantage and serves as membership leading to established groups, the society is seen as unequal and potentially disastrous. Hearing a young North Korean woman say, ˝I want to go back to the arms of the great leader as soon as possible,˝ we assumed that the North is one of the kind. Having missed the great leader so much, the woman might have been invited and treated by the great leader himself. Hope that it is just my wild guess.

Suh Ji-moon, Guest Writer, Professor at Korea University, jimoon@korea.ac.kr