Worship and Celebration, from Pyongyang to London

June 25th, 2012
16

This year, as with many other years, has seen a number of widely discussed events. It seems that every week we have something else to discuss and debate. However two events in particular stand out for this author, and it centres on anniversary celebrations held on opposite sides of the world, and reported in very

You have reached your limit of 5 free articles this month. Subscribe today for unlimited access. Prices start from just $2.88 per week
Existing users, please sign in here:
Remember Me

Recommended for You

North Korea and Syria: A revamp in relations

North Korea and Syria: A revamp in relations

North Korea and Syria have a lot in common: both built on an ideology fusing nationalism and socialism, both ruled by a hereditary despotism which ensures the rule of only one family. So it should …

September 2nd, 2014
0
Black market cash: The real value of N. Korean won

Black market cash: The real value of N. Korean won

That North Korea has a black market where families earn most of their money, and that the regime has learned to tolerate a certain degree of capitalist activity is well-documented. Less-discussed, …

September 1st, 2014
2

About the Author

Gerard Clare

Gerard Clare is a research student at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, specialising in issues of regionalism and centre-periphery relations in the Russian Far East, including how citizens on the periphery can identify with central representations of what it means to be Russian, and in what ways these representations may conflict with regional identities. His knowledge extends through to Russia-DPRK relations in the post-Soviet era, with particular focus on engagement, expectations and wider themes around energy and security. He has previously completed both his undergraduate degree in Central and East European Studies in 2011, and his MSc in Russian, Central and East European studies in 2012, at the University of Glasgow. He has contributed a number of articles to NKNews since 2011, looking at Russia-DPRK relations, Six-Party Talks and even football within the DPRK.

Join the discussion

  • Leonid Petrov

    How many political prisons do they have in the UK?
    And what is whrong with calling North Korea a “socialist paradise”?
    LP

    • http://twitter.com/stakhanovite Gerard Clare

      Hi Leonid,

      You are correct in saying the UK does not have political prisons. You could say that the UK was complicit along with the USA in the illegal rendition of a large number of people across a number of sites, as well as a host of other crimes, but that begins another discussion entirely. My aim was not to look at this side of events, precisely as it seems to be one of the only issues that people mention with regards to the DPRK. Instead I wanted to show that even when doing something that a Western nation does, the DPRK is portrayed very differently. Sycophancy and elaborate celebrations are not just an invention of the DPRK.As for describing the DPRK as a “socialist paradise”, I think there is a massive difference between socialism and what exists there, so I did take issue with the referenced quote. I don’t think the leadership has any illusions or desire to try and implement a socialist system. The country is far away from any form of socially-oriented ‘democracy’. Call it “Juche” or something else, but it certainly isn’t trying to reach socialism.

  • Leonid Petrov

    How many political prisons do they have in the UK?
    And what is whrong with calling North Korea a “socialist paradise”?
    LP

    • http://twitter.com/stakhanovite Gerard Clare

      Hi Leonid,

      You are correct in saying the UK does not have political prisons. You could say that the UK was complicit along with the USA in the illegal rendition of a large number of people across a number of sites, as well as a host of other crimes, but that begins another discussion entirely. My aim was not to look at this side of events, precisely as it seems to be one of the only issues that people mention with regards to the DPRK. Instead I wanted to show that even when doing something that a Western nation does, the DPRK is portrayed very differently. Sycophancy and elaborate celebrations are not just an invention of the DPRK.As for describing the DPRK as a “socialist paradise”, I think there is a massive difference between socialism and what exists there, so I did take issue with the referenced quote. I don’t think the leadership has any illusions or desire to try and implement a socialist system. The country is far away from any form of socially-oriented ‘democracy’. Call it “Juche” or something else, but it certainly isn’t trying to reach socialism.

  • James_C

    This is an interesting article and I’m glad you’ve written it, as when I saw the boat show in London I couldn’t help but being reminded of all the celebrations that were held in NK just a few weeks before.
    As for Leonid’s observation – I’d ask you then what is more important when analysing NK – the fact it has these political prisons or the fact it has a regime in which we see manifestations like we did on April 15 that are seemingly reproduced in slightly different form in the UK?

    • http://twitter.com/stakhanovite Gerard Clare

      Thanks for reading and commenting James. I was surprised that noone else had broached the subject, but perhaps there wasn’t as much interest in one or both of the events from regular NK-watchers. I certainly feel that more objectivity and consistency is required when discussing the DPRK. A widening of the fields of research and the discourses employed is essential to really advance understanding of events, at the very least on a macrosociological scale. A country and a society cannot be judged by the elite alone.

  • James_C

    This is an interesting article and I’m glad you’ve written it, as when I saw the boat show in London I couldn’t help but being reminded of all the celebrations that were held in NK just a few weeks before.
    As for Leonid’s observation – I’d ask you then what is more important when analysing NK – the fact it has these political prisons or the fact it has a regime in which we see manifestations like we did on April 15 that are seemingly reproduced in slightly different form in the UK?

    • http://twitter.com/stakhanovite Gerard Clare

      Thanks for reading and commenting James. I was surprised that noone else had broached the subject, but perhaps there wasn’t as much interest in one or both of the events from regular NK-watchers. I certainly feel that more objectivity and consistency is required when discussing the DPRK. A widening of the fields of research and the discourses employed is essential to really advance understanding of events, at the very least on a macrosociological scale. A country and a society cannot be judged by the elite alone.

  • CWR_1

    I nominate this as my candidate for the ‘Simon Winchester DPRK Essay Writing Prize 2012,’ for handsomely written, yet unintentionally satirical analysis.  

    • http://twitter.com/stakhanovite Gerard Clare

      Can’t beat some sardonic rhetoric eh? I’ll try to make some room for the award in my trophy cabinet. :)

  • CW_1

    I nominate this as my candidate for the ‘Simon Winchester DPRK Essay Writing Prize 2012,’ for handsomely written, yet unintentionally satirical analysis.  

    • http://twitter.com/stakhanovite Gerard Clare

      Can’t beat some sardonic rhetoric eh? I’ll try to make some room for the award in my trophy cabinet. :)

  • Danb312

    A very interesting argument. You did touch on the fact that whilst the celebrations are similar the actual roles of the heads of state in question are wildly different. Whilst Queen Elizabeth is a figurehead only and has very little actual power Kim Il Sung was instrumental in bringing about a political system in which his people starve and regularly have their human rights abused. That is why people generally have very little other than contempt for the celebrations in N. Korea (it would be like the Russians celebrating Stalin day or the Cambodians celebrating Pol Pot day).
    This being said I do agree that the celebrations in the UK were out of all proportion – particularly considering the lengths the government is trying to go to to cut spending. That 3 billion could have gone towards the health service.
    Good article – thought provoking.

    • http://twitter.com/stakhanovite Gerard Clare

      Thanks for reading and commenting Dan. There are aspects I would have liked to go into more detail about, but unfortunately there are some limits on how long an article of this nature can be. You are right to mention the vast difference in powers between Queen Elizabeth and Kim Il-Sung, and how they chose to weild those powers and responsibilities. It was more the nature of these occasions and how they are contrastingly seen by others that I hoped to draw out, rather than focusing on the well-known abuses of the DPRK rulers. These are well-covered, almost relentlessly, with marginalised focus on any other aspect of life beyond the elite. Perhaps worth noting though from your examples that Stalin still has a sizeable following in Russia, even when only as an ambiguous uncertainty over how to frame him in Russian/Soviet history, and usually best seen around celebrations such as Victory Day where his role as leader during a time of massive tragedy and victory is harder to seperate. Long-term leaders tend to widen opinion, as invariably a larger appraisal of their rule is debated instead of just a short period of focused oppression. In the case of Stalin, and likely the same for Kim Il-Sung within the DPRK, people will also remember positive outcomes to some of their policies, even when there are massive abuses.

  • Danb312

    A very interesting argument. You did touch on the fact that whilst the celebrations are similar the actual roles of the heads of state in question are wildly different. Whilst Queen Elizabeth is a figurehead only and has very little actual power Kim Il Sung was instrumental in bringing about a political system in which his people starve and regularly have their human rights abused. That is why people generally have very little other than contempt for the celebrations in N. Korea (it would be like the Russians celebrating Stalin day or the Cambodians celebrating Pol Pot day).
    This being said I do agree that the celebrations in the UK were out of all proportion – particularly considering the lengths the government is trying to go to to cut spending. That 3 billion could have gone towards the health service.
    Good article – thought provoking.

    • http://twitter.com/stakhanovite Gerard Clare

      Thanks for reading and commenting Dan. There are aspects I would have liked to go into more detail about, but unfortunately there are some limits on how long an article of this nature can be. You are right to mention the vast difference in powers between Queen Elizabeth and Kim Il-Sung, and how they chose to weild those powers and responsibilities. It was more the nature of these occasions and how they are contrastingly seen by others that I hoped to draw out, rather than focusing on the well-known abuses of the DPRK rulers. These are well-covered, almost relentlessly, with marginalised focus on any other aspect of life beyond the elite. Perhaps worth noting though from your examples that Stalin still has a sizeable following in Russia, even when only as an ambiguous uncertainty over how to frame him in Russian/Soviet history, and usually best seen around celebrations such as Victory Day where his role as leader during a time of massive tragedy and victory is harder to seperate. Long-term leaders tend to widen opinion, as invariably a larger appraisal of their rule is debated instead of just a short period of focused oppression. In the case of Stalin, and likely the same for Kim Il-Sung within the DPRK, people will also remember positive outcomes to some of their policies, even when there are massive abuses.