The party struggles to rein in rebellious and wayward youth

The regime worries that the young generation is deviating from the socialist mindset (Image / Oleg Znamenskiy, Courtesy of Shutterstock, Inc.)

North Koreans are considered modern-day slaves. They are led by one man, Kim Jong-un and forbidden to live or even think in ways that he, or that the party, on his behalf, does not approve.

Recently, though, it seems young people aren’t listening. Authorities are sounding the alarm regarding the free and individualistic lifestyles that appear to be trending. 

Despite the propaganda emphasizing Kim’s unique leadership qualities and thought and the need to uphold “our style” of socialism, young people seem to be rejecting socialist poverty and yearning for capitalist affluence.

The regime has been emphasizing the need to eliminate anti-socialist and non-socialist phenomena through various youth organizations, legal bodies, and enforcement agencies. But the free-spirited mindset of the youth remains unchanged. Awareness of the free world and desire for liberty pose a serious threat to Kim’s system.

Authorities now are desperately trying to instill political and class consciousness in the young. 
Judging by the lecture materials published by the Kumsong Youth Publishing House and distributed nationwide to working youth this month, negative sentiment about one-party rule and the Kim family dictatorship is widespread.

Consider these excerpts from material obtained by NK Insider:

“These behaviors have recently taken on different forms and are being carried out in very cunning ways, with their dangers and consequences becoming more serious,” it says. 

“Social issues such as drug crimes, superstitious activities, violent crimes, and de facto marital cohabitation are becoming prominent, with women’s crimes being particularly rampant,” the material claims, in a bid to link bad behavior with a loss of faith in Kim and the system.

“Some young women engage in prostitution for a few pennies, leave home to wander, and get involved in various criminal activities. They openly engage in immoral behavior citing living difficulties, thereby destroying healthy social ethics. Wearing exotic clothes and makeup, undergoing illegal plastic surgery and tattoos, drinking alcohol and beer, and behaving indecently. All these alien changes in the youth’s mental sphere manifest in various forms in social life.”

Let us consider this. Assuming the regime is not exaggerating, it is confirming that drug use, superstitious activity, and criminal behavior are rampant. 

The flagging of a drug problem in a society like North Korea, which is not shy about brutal repression when it comes to politics, implies difficulty in control. What is the nature of this social problem and where do the drugs come from?

In the mid-1990s, North Korea rebranded poppies as “white bellflowers” and had them cultivated on state farms. White poppies adorned fields that once grew corn and potatoes. Ordinary adults and teenagers were mobilized to labor under the August sun with farm workers to harvest the sap, or opium, from the poppies.

They were told the farms were cultivating poppies to raise funds to import rice to solve food shortages. But the opium was actually deployed to fill the coffers of the then-leader, Kim Jong-il. 

The result was that the food shortages turned into a massive famine that resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of deaths.

With its cultivation, many North Koreans started using opium. People would eat poppy leaves during the spring planting season. After the harvest, they would take the leftover dry stalks home. Opium seeds were used in cakes. For people too poor to buy medicine, opium became a panacea.

In time, social issues related to addiction, such as intravenous drug use, began to emerge. 

Eventually, the regime banned the personal cultivation of opium. However, it is still reportedly being produced in some military units where it is used to treat soldiers with dysentery, diarrhea, colds, panic disorders, depression, and arthritis. 

This fact was revealed when a discharged soldier brought seeds home after serving on the front line in Gangwon Province. Opium seeds are considered the best souvenirs for soldiers when they complete their compulsory service, he reported. 

Now poppies are being secretly cultivated around the country by discharged soldiers. 

The regime is also targeting superstitious activities, which it deems anti-socialist and non-socialist. The trouble with this is that the regime undermines its own claims by itself engaging in superstitious activities at national political events.

For example, on September 8 last year, according to the Rodong Sinmun, at a launching ceremony for the tactical nuclear attack submarine No. 841, named the Hero Kim Kun Ok, Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui ceremonially broke a champagne bottle on the submarine’s hull in front of Kim Jong-un, Ri Pyong-chol, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Kim Tok-hun, Premier of the Cabinet, and Kim Myong-sik, Navy Commander.

North Korean fishermen superstitiously break a bottle to pray for safety before setting sail. If the leader himself approves of similar superstition for what is claimed to be the first tactical nuclear attack submarine, what are people supposed to think?

The lecture material also condemns the youth for wearing exotic clothes, singing songs that are popular in the rest of the world, and watching foreign movies as decadent capitalist culture and anti-socialist, non-socialist criminal activities.

The regime seems to be fighting a rearguard action it cannot win.

Era Seo

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