The cult of Kim -- a little red book's "brilliant" teachings

Yahoo! Asia News/January 24, 2003

The bouffant hairstyle, high heels and nuclear threats are the most obvious displays of Kim Jong-Il's attention seeking ways, but a little-known red book reveals another side to the North Korean dictator's drive to create a cult around himself.

Entitled "The Great Teacher of Journalists", the book with gold letters is the "Dear Leader's" unique guide on how media hacks can rise to the glories of revolutionary heroism.

With a modesty that is a constant theme throughout the book's 170 pages, the first words simply state: "BRILLIANT GUIDANCE".

Kim published the book in 1983, more than 10 years before the death of his father, the equally dictatorial Kim Il-Sung, allowed him to take over the reins of the Stalinist state.

In what appears to be an early attempt to ensure North Koreans would worship him, Kim gives a wide-ranging and often rambling discourse on the role of the media.

Cameramen hoping to work for the government's television news service would do well to heed his advice.

"In fixing the place of the camera, the cameramen's first consideration should be how to take the dear leader's best picture," Kim writes in bold letters.

Those dreaming of editorial independence on the Worker's Party Rodong Sinmun newspaper and other government-controlled mouthpieces are given a similar lesson.

"It is advisable that the newspapers carry articles in which they unfailingly hold the president in high esteem, adore him and praise him as the great revolutionary leader."

In one particularly flowery extract, Kim brags that he once ordered three picture books on North Korea to be produced in one year instead of three.

"Such a bold decision would have been inconceivable for any other people (sic) than the dear leader who is peerlessly audacious and endowed with an unequalled ability to push forward the revolution."

The book then details the efforts of the photographers and writers who travelled the country's coal mines and collective farms to successfully produce the books in 12 months.

But, of course, there was only one person who got the credit.

"The three picture books... owed their publication precisely to the peerless audacity, brilliant intelligence and tireless guidance of the dear leader rather than individual cameramen or editorial staff members."

And just in case an anti-revolutionary might want to try to slip something into the media against the interests of the party, the dear leader offers an anecdote about his assiduous monitoring of the nation's media.

"It was four o'clock in the morning ... Everybody in the capital was sleeping in peace. However a bright light was beaming through the windows of the dear leader's office.

"Having put all people to sleep in the cradle of happiness, he was reading the first proof of an editorial submitted by the Rodong Sinmum, at this early hour of the day.

"He scrutinized every line, underlining and correcting sentences, words and phrases."

The preface to the book says that Kim is "always among journalists and teaches them every detailed problem arising in their activities".

Reading through the pages, there appears to be just one line in the book that makes sense: "Journalists must be better informed of reality than anybody else."

South Korean officials at the Unification Ministry initially knew nothing of the book, but eventually found an English translation copy of it at their North Korean information centre, which was set up in Seoul to promote greater understanding of the Stalinist state.

An expert on North Korean affairs at the Korean Institute of National Unification in Seoul said Kim had ordered countless publications that glorified himself in a bid to elevate himself to near God-like status.

"Like most communist leaders, such as Mao (Zedong) and (Joseph) Stalin and Kim Il-Sung, he has a lot of publications," the expert, who did not want to be named, said.

"In countries like that, the leaders cover every aspect of people's lives, even fishing and farming.

"They talk about everything. There is no other theory, no other argument... people see them as absulolute rulers."

The expert had not heard of "The Great Teacher of Journalists", but said many of Kim's other writings were much better known and had also been translated into English and other languages so they could be studied globally.

But journalists outside North Korea seem destined to never benefit from Kim's "wise, great and benevolent teachings," with librarians at the North Korean information centre unwilling to let their single copy of the book out of the building.

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