Non-North Koreans had a field day with the videos of people crying they saw after Kim Jong-Il’s death last year. People saw it as over-the-top and probably forced at the pain of punishment.
I wrote on that crying before. On this trip, on April 15 — the hundredth anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth — we got to visit the newly unveiled colossal statue of Kim Jong-Il next to his father’s colossal statue.
The pictures below are just after we — the whole group, but Jordan, Joseph, and me pictured — visited the statues behind us up close (no cameras were allowed much closer than we were). You can see behind us hundreds of North Koreans approaching the feet of the statues. In the time we were there, the flow of North Koreans to visit these statues didn’t slow down in any way. They approached and approached, paying homage to their leaders.
We went with one group to the feet of the statues. I can tell you, the feeling of approaching the statues of the Kims on that day — the reverence was sincere. Needless to say, we were surrounded by North Koreans. Not being North Koreans, not holding the Kims in particularly high regard, we were having a good time, but amidst the North Koreans approaching the statues, things changed quickly.
Their emotion was tangible. As we stood perhaps twenty yards from the statues as the line before us paid homage, everyone grew silent. When it was our turn to approach, the mood was beyond that of your regular religious moment. We generally faced the statues like everyone else, but the North Koreans seemed overwhelmed with emotion. They didn’t cry like in last year’s videos, but people were seriously broken up and there were no cameras to witness it.
I hadn’t thought about last year’s videos that people scoffed at until then. Suddenly people’s reactions seemed insensitive. Whatever the North Korean government’s policies, people genuinely cared about their country.
Incidentally, those statues are HUGE. And the poses show the Kims looking particularly benevolent, which seemed painfully ironic to me.
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