B. R. Myers
The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters
Brooklyn: Melville House, 2010
It’s always seemed to me that if human beings were naturally more inclined to buy into a blood based nationalism than some kind of universalistic ideology than this would be strong evidence that racial loyalty had a genetic basis. According to B. R. Myers in The Cleanest Race the secret to the behavior and survival of the North Korean regime can be found in its ideology, one which not only ignores Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy but directly contradicts it.
Both Koreas teach that the peninsula was taken over by the Japanese in 1905 and stayed under the imperialist power’s thumb until the end of World War II. While most historians take the view that the colonized were heavily oppressed, Myers disagrees at least as far as the elites are concerned. He sees the Korean intelligentsia as having been co-opted by the conquerors. The Japanese come across as relatively benign in this book, encouraging the use of the Korean language and even regional peculiarities. To Japanese researcher Yuko Mastumura, on the other hand, the occupation was a classic case of cultural genocide.
For our purposes anyway, what’s important is that the Japanese saw the Koreans as racially similar to them and thus worthy of respect. The residents of the peninsula were encouraged to hold two identities. After the Empire of Japan surrendered, North Korea became occupied by the Soviets and South Korea by the US. In the communist area those that had supported the Japanese were forgiven and became part of the new elite. The Korean war began when the North invaded the South in 1950 and ended with a stalemate in 1953. That’s where we remain until today.
According to the author, the new North Korea intelligentsia knew nothing about Marxism. They were given a crash course in its concepts by the Soviets. Kim Il Sung, a man who according to one diplomat appeared to have never read a serious book, was appointed leader of the country. He had been a resistance fighter against the Japanese.
The author pieced together his picture of North Korean ideology from domestic art and propaganda accessible at the Unification Ministry’s North Korea Resource Center in Seoul. Myers claims that the DPRK tries to hide the racialist aspects of what they believe and that Marxism is a facade. He found that the English language Korean Central News Agency tended to talk about peace, imperialism, and couch its reports in the terms of universal human rights. But the more one gets into what’s meant for domestic consumption the more racialist the material becomes. The author studied North Korean film, news releases, novels, short stories, poetry, newspapers, etc and refers to it all collectively as the Text. He speculates there’s harder stuff that was never made available to researchers.
The Koreans seem to have kicked the Japanese out of their race and held on to their view of themselves as a unique people. They don’t necessarily see themselves as more intelligent or athletic than anybody else, but beings of superior virtue, too innocent to survive in this world without a strong leader. But Kim Sung Il is more of a maternal than a paternal figure. He is always portrayed as caring and showing good cheer, never imparting wisdom, as being too erudite is seen as anti-Korean. Race includes paintings of children gathering around this jolly fat man, holding on to his leg or playing with his shoes. The arts have never attempted to hide the belly of either Kim and even occasionally show one of them smoking a cigarette. After all, a good Korean is spontaneous and in touch with his pure instincts. There is some tension between portraying Sung as a masterful tactician who single-handedly repelled the Japanese and a jolly mother that loves her children. The latter is always emphasized and reinforced while the former image is simply processed at a cerebral level. There’s a picture in the book of a young Sung receiving a gun from his mother. The viewer is supposed to take away the blank expression on his face; he’s an innocent child rather than a soldier deeply pondering the gravity of the situation.
The first leader of the country is said to have invented the ideology of juche, which means something like self-reliance. Myers considers it a tool to justify the continuation of the regime to the outside world. He finds the juche text so convoluted and meaningless that there must be nothing there. Its ideas are never presented in domestic art or the media. As a matter of fact, the nation is far from self-reliant, living off of imports and foreign aid. The leadership doesn’t seem to want to change that. Interestingly there has never been a magnum opus or central text of the philosophy that one can go to to to find what it’s about. The author believes that this is by design. Other Western scholars have taken what the North Koreans have said about themselves at face value.
When Sung died in 1994 his son Kim Jong Il took over. While the father was said to be an expert in all things, the son is presented as a military commander forced to focus all his energy on foreign relations. There is a genre of fiction made up of tales of the Kims that are understood not to be based on real events but reflect the spirit of the men. In a 1999 short story called “Transitions” Kim Jong Il blames hard times on a failure to implement his father’s teachings.
“Long ago the Leader [i.e. Kim Il Sung] was already calling agriculture the foundation of the universe. . . But we have not farmed well in recent years, and we have failed to implement his teachings properly. To make matters worse, we have suffered damages from floods and drought, so that now the people are enduring difficulty because of the food problem. But still no one complains. Even while eating gruel they are steadfastly surmounting difficulties. They’re worried they might otherwise cause me pain, you see. When I think of how much the Leader wanted to give our people white rice and meat soup, I find it hard to bear . . .”
“We have not properly taken on the work you gave us to do, General,” Kyong’u said as he hung his head.
Notice how both North Koreans and their leaders are presented as morally pure. Since the DPRK is no longer a Marxist-Leninist state there isn’t much pressure to increase the living standard of the population. As seen in the story above, economic problems are freely admitted to. All references to communism were taken out of the country’s constitution in 2009 and a military-first policy was enshrined. While in the 70s and 80s the regime could lie and say that the South lived in abject poverty the facade became impossible to maintain in the 90s when North Koreans near the border started watching Republic of Korea television and DVDs were smuggled in from outside the country. The story now fed to the population is that the ROK may be wealthy on the outside but is really crippled by shame on the inside. Some leftists in the capitalist nation even agree with this and see the Spartan existence of their poorer brethren as admirable. Since there are two Koreas, the less wealthy one with a smaller population needs a justification for its existence, which it finds in deriding the ROK as a Yankee colony. In the North Korean novel Encounter, a girl from the South says
(Korea) is making its world debut as the flashiest of American colonies, so much so that the Americans tout it as a model. But look under the silk encasing, and you see the body of what has degenerated to a foul whore of America. Here and there covered in bruises from where it has been kicked black and blue by the American soldiers’ boots, or decaying from where sewage has seeped in. And out of all of that has come a rotten “president,” a rotten “government,” rotten media. . . . (It) turns the stomach just to imagine it.
The DPRK isn’t just worried about political or cultural corruption, but biological. In May 2006 the two Koreas met to discuss the maritime border between the states. Someone from the ROK mentioned that farmers in his country were taking foreign brides. A general from the North replied “Our nation has always considered its pure lineage to be of great importance. I’m concerned that our singularity will disappear.” His counterpart answered that the unions were nothing more than a “drop of ink in the Han river.” The DPRK representative disagreed, saying that “Since ancient times our land has been one of abundant natural beauty. Not one drop of ink must be allowed.” Lest the reader think this was an isolated incident, weeks earlier the party daily had taken the South to task for the welcome they gave to a half-Korean American soccer player.
Mono-ethnicity is something that our nation and no other on earth can pride itself on. . . . There is no suppressing the nation’s shame and anger at the talk of a “multi-ethnic, multi-racial” society . . . which would dilute even the bloodline of our people.
Women coming back from China are given forced abortions, and the state encourages large families in order to eventually be able to match the population of the ROK.
Before reading Race I had high hopes that the racism of the Koreans had a more scientific basis. Maybe locked away and only for domestic reading there are translated works of Rushton and Lynn that North Korean leaders study. More likely this nationalism is the kind of “We are the best!” ethnocentrism found at all times and everywhere before the present era.
The popular 1951 anti-American novella Jackals describes the revolting physical features of Caucasians. The following is a description of an American family.
The old jackal’s spade-shaped eagle’s nose hung villainously over his upper lip, while the vixen’s teats jutted out like the stomach of a snake that has just swallowed a demon, and the slippery wolf-cub gleamed with poison like the head of a venomous snake that has just swallowed its skin.
Homosexuality is presented as an American perversion. In 1968 the North Koreans captured the USS Pueblo off their coast. A picture of the American shipmen being taken now graces postage stamps. The 2000 short story “Snowstorm in Pyongyang” tells of captured soldiers begging the North Koreans to let them engage in sodomy.
“Captain, sir, homosexuality is how I fulfill myself as a person. Since it does no harm to your esteemed government or esteemed nation, it is unfair for Jonathan and me to be prevented from doing something that is part of our private life.”
[The North Korean soldier responds,] “This is the territory of our republic, where people enjoy lives befitting human beings. On this soil none of that sort of activity will be tolerated.”
The survivability of the DPRK seems to stem from the genuine popularity that the regime enjoys. While it’s well known that many citizens flee to China what’s less often reported that 50 percent of them come back. This racialist state has survived while the dictatorships based on communism all collapsed. Unsurprisingly, people like being told they’re virtuous and better than others. They like having a God, or a perfect human being, to look up to. (While it’s been reported in the Western press that North Koreans consider the two Kims magical, in the Text it’s always a foreigner who is so impressed that he attributes supernatural powers to the father or son.) Myers relies on Freudian quackery to explain all this (I felt annoyed until I read the author studied in Germany and felt pity for him) but genetic similarity theory works better. Nothing North Koreans believe comes close to matching the absurdity of Christianity, Marxism, Freudism, Diversityism, feminism or racial egalitarianism. Even refugees who don’t like the North Korean regime express great admiration for the nation’s leaders and tear up when talking about them. As even the author acknowledges, the DPRK has never proposed invading an inch of territory outside the peninsula. But he still takes even the South Koreans to task for their chauvinistic attitudes. Are mentally healthy human beings anywhere too much for the liberal mind to bear?
In the end, the author is a typical member of the globalist elite: horrified that a non-Jewish state could be based on blood or a romantic nationalism that connects the people to the land. He seems to credit North Korea with a degree of cunning that strains credibility: understanding that a racialist state won’t fly in today’s world and inventing an alternative reality to present to other nations. If that’s the plan then there is no way that there will ever be peace between the US and the DPRK. Kim needs a threat to justify his rule and putting the military above all, and the US has a pathological need to bring political correctness to the entire globe. A free and racially pure united Korea will have to wait until the American empire collapses. Best of luck to them. While the DPRK may be an evil regime what they do is none of the business of the United States. How much of the starvation in the DPRK can be blamed on that country’s government and how much on ours? I don’t know, but what I’m sure of is that the future of the Korean peninsula would best be worked out by the people who live there. And if when they are united they choose to reject all aspects of multiculturalism I will be the first ones to cheer them on.
HBD Books, January 29, 2010