March 03, 2003

North Korea

With the recent craziness and bumpy relations with North Korea, there is significant interest in Japan about North Korea. Who are these people, how do they live, and what is going to happen? TV shows here run the gamut from academic discussions about politics to analysis of a typical meal, of a government agency telephone directory snuck out by someone, or of a flimsy military uniform that indicates how meager resources are becoming.

One late night program showed snippets of singing and dancing performances from North Korean TV. However, what disturbed me was that the show's focus was on making total fun of the performance quality, the costumes, the exaggerated gender roles, and supposed 'fake' festivities. I just want to say that I thought it was completely inappropriate.

Posted by Mie at March 3, 2003 06:01 PM | TrackBack

I didn't see the TV show you mentioned, and even if I did I wouldn't have understood the Japanese, but I agree with your sentiments. On one side of the coin, I also agree with your view of the show. Just because Japan is interested in other countries, doesn't mean they respect diversity. Its going to take a long slow uphill battle to create a greater sense of political correctness in a society that is still largely monoracial and in which women still have very little power. On the other side of the coin however, I think state run telivision is a fair target. Pointing out the lower quality of TV produced by a socialist dictatorship government is not necessarily the same as making fun of Noth Korean's themselves.

Posted by: Brian at March 3, 2003 06:49 PM

P.S. I am dating a Korean Japanese girl, so I have a particular interest in Japan/Korea relations and in the recent North Korean issue.

Posted by: Brian at March 3, 2003 06:51 PM

The impartiality with which they cover North Korea is a credit to the whole media-complex of Japan. Number one on my NHK News hoot-list has to be when they play that scary music and roll the stock footage of North Korean soliders flying through the air doing ninja know the one I'm talking about! If North Korea dismantled all their weapons, opened their borders, and adopted a strategic positioning of "endless peace and brotherhood"...NHK will still roll that damn invicible north-korean warrior video clip.

Posted by: Ian at March 3, 2003 09:02 PM

The show you were watching is BLACK WIDE SHOW (Saturday nights at 12:50 on NTV), and it its defense, it's a parody show that makes fun of a lot of things, not just North Korea (although it is a popular subject of late). I love the show.

Posted by: Jean at March 4, 2003 01:28 AM

<cynical>Here in the States the american public often takes an interest in other countries, right before we "bomb them into the stone age." But have you ever seen night time satellite photos of North Korea? It looks like they're already in the stone age, that's probably why the Bush cartel is ignoring them right now.</cynical>

Posted by: Dav at March 4, 2003 01:28 AM

I have grown rather tired of all the talk on Japanese television about North Korea. Sure, I agree that this Mr. Kim Jung Il guy runs a very cult like stalinist state and is probably rather insane, but after a while I just can't take anymore of the news about "kita chosen" that the Japanese public is bombarded with everyday from the television to the newspapers and magazines.

What I'm even more sick of is hearing about the people who were kidnapped. Sure, it was a bad thing for North Korea to do but I mean lets look at the magnitude of the situation. There weren't that many people kidnapped (even if there have been thousands of Japanese kidnapped by North Korea) compared to the massive amounts of people that the Japanese killed, tortured, raped, and used for slave labor during World War II. If NHK wants to do a special why don't they do it on that or of the Rape of Nanking. Sadly most Japanese people have no idea of the atrocities that their country did during World War II (not that the US or any other country was any better). I can understand to an extent why Korea (both North and South) still dislike Japan.

About North Korea being dark at night--it is an amazing photo but at least North Korea has a much cleaner environment than its southern neighbor.

Posted by: Jonah at March 4, 2003 03:04 AM

Dear Mie,
Considering that North Korea is
threatening to Nuke Tokyo, why should the
Japanese worry about being "POLITICALLY

Posted by: KUMA at March 4, 2003 06:08 AM

Dear Kuma,
please carry on watching NTV and NHK, it is obviously working...

Ian, I am very afraid they would indeed carry on playing those clips. Just as an innocent touch, like the latest So-net advert...

Posted by: Paul at March 4, 2003 11:25 AM

Thanks for the update Mie. Here in NYC we get NHK via TVJapan, along with bits-and-pieces of FujiTV dramas, but we are not treated to the types of shows you picture (e.g., BLACK WIDE SHOW).

What are you doing up watching TV on a Saturday night at 12:50 anyway ? Might I suggest NHK at 6:00 pm on a Sunday for the ばかばかしい Chibi Maruko-chan... !!

Posted by: Gem Stevens at March 4, 2003 01:41 PM

Glad to see all these interesting comments. The bottom line is I have little tolerance for the NK government...but the people, now that breaks my heart.

In the paper this morning there was an article about various organizations smuggling in small radios so North Koreans can listen to Radio Free Asia and Voice of America broadcasts. The part that really stuck in my mind was:
"'The populace will suffer a kind of psychological collapse when they learn what has been done to them and what the real world is really like,' predicted Redek Sirkorski, who grew up listening to Voice of America and Radio Free Europe in Communist Poland." (NYT)

So I guess what I'm saying is that Japan's coverage so far seems to be either criticism/analysis of the government, or a facination and in this case mockery of sorts about the current culture/daily life - which belongs to the everyday people. It's the everyday people suffering and I wouldn't mock them... But overall, I think it's important that NK in general is finally on the public's awareness radar.

Hey, if you're interested in a fascinating book on North Koreans growing up/living in Japan, check out:

Sonia Ryang's "North Koreans in Japaan: Language, Ideology and Identity". Here is Amazon's little review:

"This fascinating ethnography provides unique insights into the history, politics, ideology, and daily life of North Koreans living in Japan. Because Sonia was raised in this community, she was able to gain unprecedented access and to bring her personal knowledge to bear on this closed society. In addition to providing a valuable view of the experience of ethnic minorities in what is widely believed to be an implacably homogeneous culture, Ryang offers a rare and precious glimpse into North Korean culture and the transmission of its traditions and ideology."

Posted by: Mie at March 4, 2003 06:28 PM

Thanks for the recommendation. I may actually buy that book. BTW, I couldn't find any contact info for you anywhere on the website! Maybe its there, but it didn't jump out at me. I wanted to write to encourage you to finish your "About Mie" section. I am interested to learn the rest of your story about growing up in Japan. My cousins also moved here at a young age and probably had to deal with many similar issues, even though I never talked to them about it. Never very close, being in different countries will do that I suppose. They also started out in public schools and then went to an international school. The main difference would be though that, they were blond-haired blue-eyed white "Americans", whatever that is.

Posted by: Brian at March 4, 2003 07:00 PM

this is the first time that i have been to your site and i really enjayed it. it is a great idea and it covers some very good aspects. i would like to hear from you about your life in general and how much fun you must have.

regards auxis

Posted by: auxis at March 4, 2003 08:19 PM

Hi Auxis,

Welcome welcome! Glad you're enjoying it. I am very slowly working on my About section. I don't have a computer at home (or even a phone line for that matter) so finding the time has been difficult lately. I do have fun - especially when the weather is warmer - then I'll take phone pics about Tokyo night fun!

Posted by: Mie at March 5, 2003 09:20 PM

As someone said above, the Black Wide Show is a very cynical show that makes fun of everything and reports on silly, stupid, and otherwise odd stuff around the world. Heck, they use tabloid headlines and report them as "news" in tounge and cheek. The show is hilarious.

Posted by: Ben at March 20, 2003 09:54 AM

Well, the situation in North Korea is absolutely terrible, but there really is an opening to change things by getting radios into the country. Why doesn't Japan help by facilitating the distribution, say by leaky helium balloons..secretly.. If anyone can build millions (and that is what it would take) of solar-powered radios secretly and send them in there.. its Japan.. Do it, to save your own butts.. If the light of day penetrates North Korea enough.. the regime will crumble.. Because it is built on lies..

Food aid, too must be gotten directly to the people, bypassing the government which witholds food from the people in the areas that are used to internally exile millions of 'uncertain' or 'disloyal' people.. This will undermine the regime, which sustains itself by maintaining a state of paranoia. In fact, North Korea is much like Japan's Om cult of a few years ago, but much more dangerous. It clearly is a cult.. and its people need deprogramming. The government has boxed itself in with lies..both to justify the permanent seige mentality (keeping knowledge of the outside out..) and to justify..or perhaps a better word is 'legitimize' Kim Jong-Il's succession of power from his father.. essentially a dynastic succession.. They are told they live in a paradise, and that others outside are doing much worse than them.. Hard to believe.. but most of them still do.. a real tragedy.

By the way, why does Japan treat people of Korean descent, whose distant relatives were brought to Japan as *slaves*(!) as second class citizens?

You know, there is such a thing as karma.. Doing that is a travesty.. No wonder those poor misguided people went to North Korea when they did.. Their own country, Japan, was not treating them with any respect.. Probably because Japan doesnt want to pay any compensation? Well, lets not open THAT can of worms, eh? Food for thought?

But anyway.. North Korea is an absolute hell.. like nothing any of you can imagine.. It kills tens or even hundreds of thousands of people a a huge gulag, works them to death.. extracts every last drop of work from every calorie of fat in their bodies, and then they must die.. many of them in "Secret Construction Projects" underground... once they go in..they can never leave.. never see the light of day again.. when they stop working enough for their masters, they are killed..

Radios could save Japan.. remember that.. And act on it.. They could also save millions of North Korean (and South Korean - Seoul would go in a firestorm, like Ground Zero in NYC) lives..

Posted by: Shura at June 15, 2003 03:13 PM

North Korea is a threat to us and they admit they will use nukes on us if we blockade them.

They boast about building even more nukes to use against us, the USA.

Well North Korea, get ready to be distroyed. You're asking for a war and we will give it to you.

Posted by: at June 20, 2003 04:50 AM

who asks for a war?
only people like you do...
it is obvious that japan and US already have nuclear wep.s against many countries...why north korea can't have it when other counties already have it against them. they've got to protect their country too.
if you want them to give up on neclears, write to your japanese gov. to destroy theirs first.
by the way,
if north korea gets destroyed by you japan, they will bring you with them to hell.
so if you don't want to be destroyed, be careful what you say...
don't bring it onto yourself like a stupid person...don't set a fire on nothing.

Posted by: .. at August 8, 2003 05:06 AM


Posted by: YU at January 15, 2004 04:25 AM
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