It could be noted that recently, such an organization as Radio Free Asia has masterfully come out on top on the author’s ranking of baloney sources. This non-profit entity has its headquarters in the United States that, in theory, occupy the same place as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty did during the ‘Cold War’. However, as the author lived at the time when Radio Liberty broadcasting was to be listened to more as ‘forbidden or banned voices’, the author has the opportunity to compare the quality and reliability of the information broadcast by the two radio stations. Although, after the news about obligatory hairstyles like Kim Jong-un, or about the distribution of drugs among the builders of important national economic assets, someone may think it is difficult to come up with something more odious, the other day, Radio Free Asia managed to surpass itself.
Here is another sensation: on August 28, sarcasm was banned in North Korea. During mass meetings starving and repressed workers are told that satire or sarcasm while discussing matters concerning North Korean authorities would be regarded as an “act of hostility”, similar to slander. For example, wording like “It’s all American tricks”, which the Koreans use only to make fun of their government’s trend of blaming the US State Department for all their problems, was also banned. In addition, the phrase “idiot, not seeing the world around” was banned as it may refer the country’s leadership. This has been largely been due to the fact that graffiti on walls in Pyongyang and other major cities are full of such expressions. This is how the public is manifesting its growing discontent with the authorities, despite the fact that the authorities always paint the graffiti over to prevent any slogan from being disseminated.
As usual, an anonymous source from North Korean provinces of Ryanggangdo and Chagangdo, being the poor and inaccessible hinterland, was the source of the sensation. This is incidentally very convenient, as the verifying the existence of the source is associated with a lot of obstacles.
The news was reprinted by several tabloids, including the Sun, then it mechanically follows the same path as the famous news of Jang Sung-taek’s death penalty through feeding him to a pack of starving dogs. First, the tabloids reprint the RFA message, then the smaller tabloids reprint it, and moving along a chain of reprints, the news becomes more refined and gets further retouched. At the end, the original source of information is unknown, having been omitted either intentionally or otherwise.
However, this is not the first such stovepiping. During recent months, RFA has taken serious steps towards winning the title of absolute champion in baloney.
On June 10, ‘it turned out’ that, under the guise of North Korean going out to work and earn some foreign currency, the DPRK send troops to the Middle East, and their number has increased significantly in the last 2…3 years. This is due to the fact that the military does not need to pay soldiers any salaries, and they are easier to control, as they obey military commands. In 2010, there were as many as 70 people, but as it is suggested, their number has significantly increased since then. Besides, before being sent to the Middle East, military personnel specifically grow their hair to look like civilians. So if you see someone who does not look like a soldier, make no mistake, his or her look may have been transformed by design!
On July 17, the RFA reported citing Asia Press International as its source that all photos belonging to members of the Kim family had been removed from school textbooks so as to not let children made drawings over them.
It turns out that their sources had obtained 75 different types of books with no portraits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il or Kim Jong-un in them. The RFA was silent on the fact that such portraits could not be found in textbooks such as Math textbooks; and that the level of the cultish tendencies toward Kim as a person is different from the often demonized thoughts about him. And the baloney stating that “everyone is advised to get the same haircut as the leader” also originated with them.
On July 15, we were told about the attack of the ‘resistance forces’ against the border patrol – one soldier was killed, the other was seriously injured. The source said that the soldiers were showed with stones, and they started to run away and forgot about the ammunition.
On August 10, the RFA reported on the famine and unrest within the North Korean army, where soldiers are fed only liquid soup without meat: the reason is widespread corruption and theft among officers.
On September 26, we were told about the mass exodus of northerners living in the border areas to South Korea, where there was massive flooding. How they managed to escape across the whole country (flooding affected the northern regions) and why this information was not reflected in the ROK media, is still a matter of obscurity. However, the Free Asia knows better. It turns out, that the mass exodus happened after the barbed wire system of border surveillance and border crossings had been damaged due to flooding. Today, the region is raging with special inspections and interrogations that are not confined only to questions relating to border control, but also to the suppression of the usage of mobile phones or watching of South Korean movies and TV series by the locals.
On October 5, with reference to the State of Broadband report that was presented by the International Telecommunicatio
Finally, on November 14, the RFA reported that the DPRK had launched a campaign of collecting aluminium foil for use in manufacturing camouflage nets. Even schoolchildren are reportedly taking part in gathering the ‘strategic material’, searching for discarded empty cigarette packs manufactured using foil. According to the radiobroadcast’s sources, the foil is used to make camouflage nets that interfere with American spy satellites. The authorities urged citizens to support the national armed forces and get the foil, which they call a ‘strategic material’. The author admires the ability of the propagandists to explode the well-known Internet meme about ‘tin foil hats’ that is used by a number of conspiracy theorists to counter the ‘psychotronic weapons.’
Well, one can only wish Radio Free Asia continued success in breeding this kind of baloney. The author is looking forward to obtain “news” that North Korea has killed all seals for the fifth time, or massively sacrificed children to the giant serpent-toad. All in all, it’s North Korea, a gloomy tyrannical regime. How one can be 100% sure that there is no serpent-toad?!
Previously, the author wrote that it is high time for North Korean propaganda to be changed, as its anachronistic style leads to contradictions or statements made on the current situation that refute the enemy’s point of view causing a reaction contrary to the expected one among the European or Russian-speaking audience. Nevertheless, it seems that Radio Free Asia and similar propagandist media have set themselves the task to catch up with the North Koreans in terms of being extravagant and odious. So much so that perhaps in the future, even the ‘Stonefish Rule’ will cease to be effective.
Konstantin Asmolov, Ph.D. in History, Chief Research Fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”