Every week we ask a North Korean your questions, giving you the chance to learn more about the country we know so little about. This week, Tadlock S. asks:
Do North Koreans think that Koreans (including South Koreans) are superior to all other nationalities? Are Americans the most feared and hated people?
Answering this question I’d say that North Koreans definitely have more favorable feelings towards Koreans, including South Koreans. However, I didn’t give much thought to other foreigners, rarely catching glimpses of them on TV and almost never seeing them in person. In fact, in North Korea I actually thought about foreigners so little that the concept of intermarriage between cultures was something I could never even imagine! The only foreigners I did develop feelings about ended up being Chinese and Russian, since we knew about them and occasionally saw them because of the friendly relations between our countries.
When it comes to Americans, though, North Koreans do indeed have very hostile feelings. You see, it’s hard not to when the government continuously says things like “American Yankee Pigs” and“Americans Are Sworn Enemies” and promotes hostility through dramas, movies, comics, books, posters and other media. I remember that people would always say, “Americans are bad guys!” when I was living in North Korea. Even among children, if a kid did something wrong, the others would taunt them by calling them “American!” Because of this government propaganda, I unconditionally thought that Americans were always “bad” and “scary.”
When I was little, I thought that Americans really were very frightening. And when I had nightmares, they were always about me running for my life from American soldiers who were chasing me with guns! I ended up dreaming these nightmares so often that I could only sleep with the candles lit. That’s how bad it was.
I think this negative attitude towards Americans undoubtedly stems from the North Korean government’s ideology. It’s because North Koreans live in a complete vacuum in which we only hear negative things about America and South Korea. They propagandize that South Koreans are puppets persuaded and controlled by America and that North Koreans suffer because of America. Since North Koreans can’t hear or see any news about America for themselves, they can’t help but believe what the government says.
Despite all the negative propaganda, there were still more positive feelings than negative ones when it came to thinking about South Koreans. Because of the deeply instilled Korean cultural identity of “One race, One blood,” there were always a lot of favorable feelings and even a longing for South Koreans. Of course, there were negative films about South Korea, but there were also many films showing brotherly love for our fellow countrymen in the south. Also, there are still many people with family members living in South Korea. Although Korea is divided into North and South and the government relations are very tense, don’t forget that missing family and homeland cant stir up very strong emotions.
You might be surprised about one thing, though. North Koreans have positive feelings about Koreans living in America (Korean-Americans) because they are considered refugees from the Korean War (Koreans refer to the Korean War as the 6.25 War because the war started on June 25, 1950).
Since moving to South Korean I’ve finally got the opportunity to meet some Americans, the people I used to fear so much! I even spoke with them, despite not being able to understand them 100% because of the language barrier. Regardless of the language difficulties, we were able to discuss each other’s hobbies, love lives, daily lives and as a result, got to know each other better. At first I was a little bit frightened, but I realized that they were very friendly people, unlike the scary people that I had nightmares about while living in North Korea.
Many of the friends I’ve made in South Korea have very favorable opinions of Americans. One of my friends here obsessively watches American TV shows and movies. Another one loves America and wants to move there. Also, as I adjusted to living in South Korea, my opinion of Americans changed into a very positive one. I’m now interested and curious about America, and have been thinking about living there one day. If given more opportunities to do so, I’d like to become friends not just with Americans, but people of many diverse cultures.
This is Jae Young’s last post with Ask a North Korean- click here to read her “Thank you and Goodbye!”
Got A Question?
This was Jae-young’s last ever answer: we’re getting a new North Korean to help out and will be taking questions from you all soon!
Editing and translation by Nara Han