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[Opinion] Violent Gale and Swift Blast

Posted September. 16, 2008 08:37,   


A violent gale and a swift blast have similar meanings, but are different in nuance. A violent gale has a negative connotation, while a swift blast gives a positive implication. For example, Korea’s rapid period of democratization is called the age of a “strong swift wind.” In contrast, the eras riddled with violence and dictatorship such as China’s Cultural Revolution, Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and the period of Nazi Germany are often described by the metaphor of a violent gale.

Radio Pyongyang said Sunday, “The North Korean people will defend our communist country until the end of time no matter how strong of a gale we have to face or even after eternity passes. Our military and citizens consider our nation our beloved mother, making every patriotic effort to contribute to creating national wealth and prosperity.” North Korean media often use the phrase “no matter how strong of a gale we have to face” whenever they find the need to strengthen ideology and internal solidarity. A day before North Korean Kim Jong Il’s 66th birthday, the North’s official daily Rodong Shinmun said, “No matter how strong a violent blast comes and even if heaven and earth changes a hundred times, we will support and follow our Dear Leader Kim Jong Il.”

As Kim did not appear at an event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of North Korea last week, rumors abound that he is gravely ill. Some say he fell into coma after collapsing from stroke and others say he is already dead, a rumor which turned out to be false. A Seoul government official said, “Kim Jong Il’s health is said to have improved as he was able to brush his teeth, indicating he can perform a few basic functions without help.”

Pyongyang seems to consider as a violent gale the external shock it might get because of Kim’s illness. The driving force that has maintained the hereditary power system over the past six decades is the wind of the juche (self-reliance) ideology. This violent wind, however, could lose its strength someday in the face of the swift winds of freedom and openness. Though Radio Pyongyang stressed defending its nation “against any strong gust,” North Korea might express its anxiety over the collapse of its anachronistic autocratic state by the strong gust of free democracy and market economy.

Editorial Writer Gwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)