Every now and then I read something really amazing in the comments of another website, and it just blows my mind. And some things are too good not to republish.
Thusly, this comment about the North Korean state of mind made by IO9 commenter "lodown":
"The Economist had a review of an interesting-sounding book that addresses the subject of North Korea’s political ideology (The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves—And Why It Matters, B.R. Myers.). Other commenters are correct; it’s not a socialist or even a communist regime. It’s a ma/paternalistic dictatorship with a healthy dash of racist ethno-nationalism. Quote from the article:
"Ideas of racial purity lie at the heart of North Koreans’ self-image. Since the regime’s founding, they have been taught to think that they are a unique race, incapable of evil. Virtue, in turn, has made Koreans as vulnerable as children.
Korea’s history, the regime insists, is the history of a child-race abused by adults—Chinese, Japanese and American. Pure, spontaneous and naive, Koreans need a caring, protective leader. The upshot is the Kims’ peculiar cult, of state-sponsored infantilism.
You see no chin-thrusting depictions of father or son on the monumental streets of Pyongyang. In art as in life, both Kims are effeminate and podgy. Warnings against fleeing to China are conveyed as directed at a squirrel who wanders too far. In paintings, Kim Il Sung tucks children into bed. The nation lies at the ‘breast’ of Kim Jong Il and his party. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Mr Kim is even called ‘Mother General‘."
If the regime were simply communist or Stalinist, it might not have had the staying power it does have. But it’s succeeded because it’s given North Koreans an appealing way to make sense of their lives: They’re better than everyone else, which is why the Korean peninsula has been the object of so many imperialist schemes (it’s the political version of, "Haters! You know you want this! Ya’ll is just jealous.") So their lives have purpose and meaning–they’re the Chosen Race with a special destiny to fulfill. Their hardships can be blamed on hostile, envious foreigners. And Dear Leader will protect them as tenderly as a parent would protect his children.
A Confucian-influenced society is particularly good for perpetuating these beliefs. The current elder generation is made up of those people who were involved in the Korean War and in whom the memories of Japanese and American occupation are strongest. These grandparents act like agents of the state within their own families. Meanwhile, the rest of the world doesn’t want to mess around much with Pyongyang, since the costs of intervention are too high (most forecasts of what would happen if the regime fell are incredibly bleak).
You couldn’t create better conditions for sustaining a brutal, crazy dictatorship even in the best dystopian fiction."
Well, that goes a long way towards explaining this: