When conservative believers jeer and jab at atheism, they frequently point to North Korea as an example of what a perfect atheist state looks like.
Next time that happens, just send them a link to this article from yesterday’s Washington Post.
Author Anna Fifield explains how the country’s schoolchildren are force-fed the idea that their leaders are divine beings. “Kimism” is a religion in all but name.
The personality cult that permeates every aspect of North Korean life has become an ideology in itself. It revolves around Kim Il Sung, portrayed as an anti-Japanese revolutionary hero and founding father who remains North Korea’s “eternal president” more than two decades after his death.
His son, Kim Jong Il, was, according to North Korean myth, born on a sacred mountain, under a bright star at night. (In reality, he was born in Siberia.) Since Kim Jong Il’s death in 2011, Kim Jong Un has taken over the family business.
If you live in North Korea, you cannot escape the propaganda barrage.
Every home, office, classroom and even train car features portraits of the first two leaders, and the pictures must be cleaned with a special cloth every day.
North Koreans wear pins, usually of Kim Il Sung but sometimes of both Kim One and Kim Two, on their chests, on the left to be close to their hearts.
Television sets and radios are fixed to state-run channels — being caught with an unfixed device, or worse, foreign DVDs, is a severe offense that often leads to time at a labor camp — and for all but a handful of the elite, there is no Internet. Although an increasing amount of information seeps across the border from China, the state continues to have almost total control over the flow of information.
All this Orwellian excess is spoon-fed to kids from an early age, no later than kindergarten.
“The milk would arrive and we would go up one by one to fill our cups,” recalled Lee [a recent defector].
“The teachers would say: ‘Do you know where the milk came from? It came from the Dear Leader. Because of his love and consideration, we are drinking milk today.’ I didn’t really ask questions. Somehow I just knew not to.”
Children’s books convey the ideology, too. The Butterfly and the Cockerel, for example, tells the story of an irascible, bullying rooster (the United States) outwitted by a small, virtuous butterfly (North Korea). Teachers don’t just teach history, they teach “revolutionary history.” And all music, storybooks, novels and artwork relate to the Kims.
Math problems taught in North Korea’s schools are habitually cast in terms of political ideology, even war, said a teacher who escaped the dictatorship. For instance:
“If you have this many of Kim Il Sung’s anti-Japanese fighters and this many Japanese soldiers, and X-many Japanese soldiers are killed . . .”
There are 365 days’ worth of education materials, so every day teachers could say to their students, “On this day, Kim Il Sung went there, did that.” At age 7, all children must join the Children’s Union. The next year, they start Saturday “self-criticism” sessions in which they must confess how they fell short of the “Ten Principles” that are the foundation of North Korea’s ideology. The principles include requirements such as studying the “revolutionary ideas of Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung” daily.
At 14, they move up to the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, which focuses on worshiping the Kim family.
To complete the conditioning,
High school students in North Korea must complete a three-year, 81-hour course on the history of Kim Jong Un, according to a recent report from South Korea’s KBS World Radio, which cited a copy of the North Korean Education Committee’s “compulsory education outline.” The course is in addition to a 160-hour course on Kim Il Sung and 148 hours of study about Kim Jong Il.
[T]he system of surveillance and informing on people is so pervasive that husbands dare not voice doubts about the regime to their wives, and parents, if they are skeptical, dare not try to protect their children’s minds.
Does any of that sound like freethinking or atheism to you? Brutally enforcing a cult of worship on an entire nation would seem to be, I dunno, pretty much the polar opposite.
(Image via Shutterstock)