[KS] KCTV's hour-long paean to Kim Jong-un yesterday can now be seen in full by all

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Tue Jan 10 13:15:47 EST 2012

>I agree; if there is no image, there is no news ...

Let me then rephrase the main point I was trying 
to make (that did not come over, I think, was not 
supposed to be our reception of NK)--and this may 
more be a question to be discussed from a 
sociological point of view:

I do not wonder so much about the reception of 
North Korean paraphernalia as communist chic 
here, there is no doubt that this is what 
happens. The question is, to my mind at least: is 
NK outliving itself while it turns its country 
and political culture into a paraphernalia flea 
market for the rest of the world? NK propaganda 
posters and "art" are serving the voyeuristic 
needs of the international (incl. South Korean) 
public, and that is not a public of "Korea 
watchers" and other certified spies anymore but a 
very general wider public that talks this out 
over Facebook and posts things in YouTube. So far 
I am still talking of our side of the fence, of 
course. What has changed is that there is now no 
filter through those Korea watchers anymore, they 
are being replaced by an immediate 
reception--WITHOUT the authoritative filer on our 
end, therefore a loss of authority of both sides! 
(Which again will likely help to shift the 
perspective of North Korea to one that is a 
little less manipulated by mostly U.S. government 
visions of the world.) Can you see that? North 
Korea is loosing its mojo as a thread, as an 
enemy country because of the way reception has 
changed, especially visual reception. If North 
Korea becomes a kind of Manga theme, the 
country's official propaganda films (as Don Baker 
also remarked) are perceived as slapstick that do 
not need any further editing, then our still new 
modes of communication and visual reception via 
the Internet and all its tools--and this is now 
an INTERACIVE reception process--now allow the 
spectators a direct gaze and a direct response, 
and this inevitably results in Stalinist 
propaganda to be turned into a comic at first, 
but results in a more balanced view over the long 
run. That is what happens on our side of the 
fence and that is a major part of why visuality 
now plays such a big role, and why the perception 
of North Korea is changing.

Though, what I was hoping to discuss is if the 
situation is not possibly going into a similar 
direction in North Korea itself. In a monarchic 
system the leadership cult can seemingly be 
reduplicated indefinitely. In Europe the 
remaining monarchies have over the past hundred 
years just been operating as tokens of democratic 
states, build into democratic systems--with 
exception of Spain, where a dictatorial monarchy 
survived until the 1970s. In North Korea such a 
cult reduplication is still happening under 
serious conditions with serious consequences, not 
just to feed the yellow presses with nice visuals 
and stories. Seeing their own propaganda films, 
posters, "art" being understood as slapsticks and 
Mangas overseas is one thing, but actually--AND 
that is what happens--there is a mass production 
and mass reproduction of these kind of images for 
a foreign market (done in North Korea to an 
absolutely amazing degree). That again is one 
further step into a very different direction than 
we saw in the past. If our new modes of gazing at 
North Korea are voyeuristic (see above), then 
what does that make North Korean traders and 
middle-aged party leaders who turn themselves and 
their leaders and official ideals into objects of 
communist chic paraphernalia, converting their 
official visual icons into international sales 
objects and prototypes for computer games while 
still ruling the country? Nobody should care 
about those leaders. Yet, this must have a 
possibly decisive impact on the people in North 
Korea, at least in P'yôngyang where there is 
quite a bit of contact to the outside world. If 
the middle-aged party leadership is already now 
treating the Kim family cult icons like Mao 
Zedong was treated since the early 1990s inside 
and outside of China, and with all the exchanges, 
Koreans from China and elsewhere who visit North 
Korea, then such a change of perception from 
serious thread to Mickey Mouse might well 
undermine any sort of leadership. No? (Maybe not 
so in China, because their is a bargain, because 
people get their economic needs being taken care 
of ... but in North Korea?) There are 
preconditions for state initiated "cults"--and I 
wonder if this will destroy these conditions for 
some sections of the population, which would then 
create space for alternative thinking and 
movements. That may have already happened.

Frank Hoffmann

Frank Hoffmann

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