North Korea expert Andrei Lankov has a lengthy and what some (but not me) might find controversial column in the Asia Times explaining why, after reunification, many North Koreans are likely to remember the Kim Dynasty past with nostalgia. Here’s a taste:
This sad situation is an unavoidable result of decades of the Kim’s family rule. Ideally, North Koreans might have admitted that they are paying a huge price for themselves (or rather their ancestors) being seduced by the seemingly attractive ideas once promoted by the founders of the regime and their Soviet sponsors.
These ideas emphasized social equality and a shared national destiny. They promised (wrongly, as it turned out) the general well-being and dramatic economic growth. Then, when around 1970, the emptiness of these promises started to become evident, the North Korean population could not challenge the system and found themselves in a state where a tiny semi-hereditary elite would maintain their powers whilst enjoying assorted perks and privileges.
However, such an honest and frank appraisal is unlikely to take hold – after all, it is seriously damaging for the psychological well-being of all those concerned. We humans are usually not too eager to see ourselves as victims of the dreams, delusions and fears of their grandfathers, we are not happy to say that we have spent our lives pursuing nonsensical goals while remaining more or less obedient tools for a tiny ruling caste. So, the North Koreans will be far more likely to start looking for some justification, a myth-based narrative (or rather a few different myth-based narratives) which will explain the disastrous Kim period in a less painful way.
To think we have a unified future of North Koreans bitching about arrogant South Koreans looking down on them, South Koreans bitching about lazy, ungrateful North Koreans, and everyone bitching about the Americans, Japanese, Chinese and Russians…