So Dear Leader has died. It’s hard to believe that all the mourning in the street is being done out of pure grief. I think much of it is a fear of the ruling party and fear of what will come next. Maybe the North Koreans really are mourning the loss of a great man but really, what is life like inside North Korea?
You’re greeted by the soldiers – soldiers everywhere on the border. Then once you pass the checkpoint you hit the roads – 6 lanes across and a lone cyclist crossing it. Very few people here can afford a car; the only vehicles you’ll see belong to the military (often broken down) or the Mercedes that belong to the North Korean officials. As you drive on you come to the capital, Pyongyang. As a tourist, you’re forbidden to leave your hotel – make sure you get your sleep while you can since the loudspeakers blast patriotic songs on the hour from 6 am to midnight. Life is hard with back breaking work in construction or manufacturing. Most of the time there’s not enough to eat but you don’t dare complain about the Dear Leader.
Don’t get me wrong – life isn’t all hard. We like to attend the mandatory National Day dance. It’s fun to dress up and dance and pretend that all is good. There’s enough to drink that it’s easy to forget for a while.
My family lives in the countryside. My mother and grandmother and I all toil long days in the rice paddys, so bent over grandmother can no longer straighten up at the end of the day. My father is in the military and walks all day. I don’t know why Dear Leader needs so many in the military – who could possibly harm him? In the evening we light a fire and cook up the small amount of food we have for the family (once less mouth now since the baby died.) It’s a hard life but Dear Leader takes care of us.
I’m scared now though. Things weren’t always good under Dear Leader (don’t say I said that) but we knew what to expect. Like everyone else I don’t know much about Kim Jong-un but grandmother says he’s very young to be running a country as powerful as North Korea. Maybe he can get more food to the people without blowing anyone up….