Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Quotable: Mina Yoon on the staying power of North Korea’s narrative

Sunday, January 10th 2016
“Mina Yoon” is a North Korean who escaped and now lives in Seoul.  She answers questions about North Korea in a blog on the website.  A reader asked, “Who do North Koreans think started the Korean War?”  Ms. Yoon wrote, “I was one of the many people who found it extremely hard to believe that North Korea started the Korean War. Among the many things that I relearned when I got to South Korea, the truth about Korean War was the biggest surprise.”

Her long reply to the question gives testimony to the power and longevity of an unchallenged (because it is enforced) national narrative.  Here are a few quotes:

  • . . . it is almost impossible for North Koreans to believe that North Korea started the war. As you know, in North Korea, a society closed off from the outside world, people are blinded about what is happening inside and out of their country. The North Korean government allows its people only a limited amount of information, and it is really hard to get any information other than what the government wants the people to know.

  • . . . there are no rumors contradicting the official line on the Korean war – nothing to make people think otherwise about this ‘truth’.  And so I never heard anything about the Korean War that contradicted what I had learned in school.

  • Kim Il Sung convinced people that, this time – instead of Japan – it was greedy America who was about to take away their precious homeland. He stirred up the people, telling them that North Korea could not go back to the disgrace of colonial era, and we, North Koreans should not allow any external enemy inside our territory again. And to defeat the enemy from our homeland, every single North Korean should fight in the war, he said.

  • Even if you try to tell the truth about the war to North Korean people, no one would be likely to believe it. It was unbelievable even for someone like me, who voluntarily left North Korea. . . . . It will for sure take some time for them to break what they have accepted as truth for so long.

  • To accept what happened in the Korean War, the North Korean people should first grasp the truth about the Kim family –  their desire for power and violent nature. Without this, it would be impossible to really know what brought the tragedy of fratricidal war into Korean peninsula.

  • The made-up stories in North Korea can be corrected only when the country is finally liberated from its own prison of darkness and confronts the free world beyond its border. It will for sure take a long time. And even time would not fix everything.

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