“Breaking News,” the TV said, interrupting whatever crap I was watching.

“We are getting reports from North Korea,” the reporter said. He then said a bunch of other stuff about North Korea. Specifically about Kim Jong Il. But he didn’t say what the breaking news was.

“Be dead,” I said. “Be dead, be dead, be dead.”

North Korea scares the shit out of me. Mostly because Kim Jong Il is a scary dude with some potentially scary firepower. Like Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il was evaluated to be antisocial, paranoid, sadistic, narcissistic, schizoid, and schizotypal.

And he had nukes.

So when the newsman told me that the dictator was, in fact, dead, I did a fist pump, assuming that the world was a safer place.

But then I caught a glimpse of his son and heir.

I’m realizing that my FONK (Fear of North Korea) is not about a leader – some crazy dude with nuclear weapons. He is a part of it, sure, but a dictator is only as strong as the masses he controls.

It is about a country that separates itself from the world. It’s about a mindset.

Actually, mindfuck is a better word.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me shudder. It is the kind of situation in which World War Three happens. When you see people crying to the point of collapse on the streets at the sight of the funeral procession of narcissistic dictator who leaves a quarter of the population in poverty, you have to wonder are they acting in such a way out of fear, or are they really, actually fucking sad?

There is no way for us to judge. There is no way for us to know.

* * *

One of the random things I think about a lot is a hypothetical experiment that should never be conducted. It goes like this:

A baby is born. It is put into a room. The kid lives there for his entire life, locked in this room.

The thing about this room is that it is all red.

The walls are red. The floor is red. The furniture, the lights, his clothes – all red.

The only thing that is not red is his body — his skin, hair, eyes. But to get around this, he is forced to wear these red Cyclops-looking glasses, which he wears every day. This ensures that anything the boy ever sees is red.

He is properly fed, educated, and groomed. People come in to provide social interaction with the child (wearing red, of course). He is given red toy trucks to play with. He is given red crayons and red paper to draw on.

This is his life, year after year.

On his sixteenth birthday, however, he is given a special present.

His captors tell him to close his eyes, and they bring in a birthday cake. They take off his glasses, and tell him to open his eyes.

He opens his eyes, and gazes upon a blue birthday cake.


What happens?

Does he cry tears of joy upon seeing what must be the most beautiful thing he has ever seen? Does his brain explode out of sheer shock?

But the most important question, and the question that intrigues me the most, is whether or not the boy had any concept of Blue before this very moment. Does the human brain come installed with the knowledge of the color wheel, even when the eyes are exposed to only one of the primary colors?

The point I am trying to make with my diabolically cruel hypothetical experiment is the notion of not being able to grasp, understand, or even comprehend things that are completely outside of everything you have ever known. From birth, North Koreans are taught to conform, while segregated within a country that allows absolutely no outsiders. What, then, can be their expected reaction of the outside world?

I would assume that Blue would be a welcome change for someone living only with Red. Being from a multi-colored world, I would also presume that Blue is something that should be a part of any Red-dweller’s life.

But Red is the only thing that person knows. They were raised on Red, and Blue might be some scary shit to them, just like the thought of living in a world that is completely dominated by Red is scary to me.

And that is why North Korea scares me so much. It is not the fact that there is a lineage of crazy-ass dictators with nuclear weapons. It is not even the fact that the country is inhabited by seemingly brainwashed citizens. These are important dynamics, obviously. But the reason it scares me so much is the fact that because of their isolation there is no way for us to understand their mindset. And more importantly, there is no way for them to understand ours.

It is one challenge to attempt to show someone the concept of Blue.

It is another challenge entirely when you can’t even get into the room.

-Youngman Brown

kim jong il team america

If you have time and wish to be more scared, watch the National Geographic special, Inside Undercover in North Korea. It is pretty compelling. At the very least, it will make you happy to have Blue in your life.

0 thoughts on “Red and Blue: An Ode to Kim Jong Il

  1. Well, I thought he would be dead sooner or later, just a matter of time so I didn't really care. Maybe I would care more if he was murdered.

    But, I do believe they have some sense of “blue,” maybe not in the sense of democracy but in wealth. But many of them do try to escape into South Korea and China, risking being caught sent into a labor camp. Actually, it's even worse because it's not just you who gets sent, but your family as well).

  2. Dr. Cynicism: I am glad that I am not the only one to heartlessly say those words.

    Lilian: Yes, that is the worst part about the people who are able to escape. If you watch that Nat Geo link, there is a young man who escapes, but refuses to talk about what happened to his family as a result.

    Very sad, indeed.

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