Temple of Tears

Mirror.co.uk/March 9, 2003
By Lorraine Davidson

Thousands of North Korean workers queue every day in the freezing cold to pay homage to a leader who died nine years ago.

Kim II Sung ruled the country for almost five decades until 1994. Now he is the eternal president, lying in the Memorial Palace and revered like a god.

Unlike most public buildings in North Korea, this one is warm.

Cameras and coats must be left behind before taking the 15-minute walk through the palace to where the great leader lies.

Every day 20,000 people, many weeping openly, pass through. Demand is so great some workers have been told they cannot visit until 2011.

A line of four people at a time moves forward to bow in front of a giant statue of Kim II Sung before moving to the grand hall.

A machine cleans your shoes and you are blasted with cold air to remove any dirt on your body.

Kim II Sung lies in a giant glass case in the middle of the room. Dressed in a sober navy suit, white shirt and tie, the body is brightly lit from above.

The rest of the room is in near darkness. Army guards signal when it is your turn to move towards the glass case.

The North Koreans bow in front of their dead leader, moving round each side of his body to pay homage for a few moments before being led away.

The only sound in the room is that of sobbing and sniffing as people grieve in the same way you would expect them to for a recently deceased relative.

Many of the visitors live in homes with no heating, no water and little lighting.

Often they will wake hungry and go to bed hungry. But, bizarrely, it is not their political leaders they blame for their hardship - it is the Americans.

Hardly surprising in a country where brainwashing is a way of life. Posters are displayed on street corners, reminding them of their enemy - the US.

One typical notice states: "US aggressors are cold-blooded murderers."

At school sports days, children as young as five take part in the usual running race before going on to play another game - bayoneting the US soldier. The infant who kills the American fastest wins.

Pak Gyongson, of the Korean Workers Party International Department said: "It is a beautiful country, full of happy people."

He almost spits with anger as he adds: "We could be prosperous again if it wasn't for the US."

Many North Koreans have grown up knowing nothing but hatred for America.

They have computers and the technology to get on the world wide web.

But the people here can only access the intranet, which restricts them to information that the regime wants them to see.

North Korea in 2003 is George Orwell's 1984.

In the main library in the capital Pyongyang, a student says: "I want to learn English because I might want to go to the UK one day."

If he does realise his dream, it is then that the North Korean leaders will face their most worrying time.

It might not be the Americans who will smash this failing Communist state, but the very people they say they are prepared to sacrifice in any war with the US.

It is only the people of North Korea themselves who will be able to topple this regime.

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