April 16, 2024
Evergreen

North Korea in 1984: The Fatherly Leader is watching you

Foreign students, even from Pyongyang’s supposed allies, had their activities severely curtailed in the 1980s

Foreigners in 1984 North Korea were seen as intrinsically dangerous. They knew way too many things which the average North Korean was not supposed to know. In the mid-1980s, when mature Kimilsongism was in its full bloom, North Koreans were supposed to believe that they inhabited a lucky island of prosperity amidst a worldwide sea of poverty, destitution and suffering. Needless to say, the North Korean government understood that excessive interaction with foreigners could easily damage such propaganda myths, myths that were and probably still are vital for the security of the state.

Additionally, the outside world was seen as a dangerous place, where perversion and abnormality were commonplace. The North Korean government styled itself as the protector of its people from such things, and this approach was probably genuinely supported by many North Koreans. I remember the surprise with which a North Korean professor reacted when he learned that listening to foreign broadcasts in the Soviet Union was perfectly legal. This aging professor, a rather sharp and intelligent man, was horrified, “What if such foreign broadcasts are not ideologically appropriate?” he protested.

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