Kim Jong-Il’s Aesthetics


This might be an appropriate time to link to a couple of posts Merrill Markoe wrote in 2006, where she looked through two of the books Kim Jong-Il wrote when he was merely a dictator-to-be. One was “On the Art of Opera,” and the other was “On the Art of Cinema.” There’s also this piece from 2005 by John Gorenfeld, who gives a little more background on the books.

In these books, written when the future Glorious Leader was just out of university and learning the rudiments of controlling the country’s culture, we learn what we might expect to learn: capitalist art is decadent, but the Revolution will also have no truck with artsy formalist art that the people can’t understand, so the solution is to have art that speaks directly to the people in a language they can understand, and delivers politically correct messages about Communism. By a strange coincidence, the peak of both musical theatre and film has been achieved by productions of the North Korean government. And everyone, of course, must know what their real job is: unlike Western movies, which are compromised by the star system, actors in his idea movie “must be ideologically prepared before acquiring high-level skills… The actor requires an ardent love of his class, and a burning hostility towards the enemy.”

Yes, it’s your usual Zhdanovite boilerplate, and let it be said that none of this is actually funny if you have to live and work under people like that. It’s still hard to resist making fun of it, and Markoe does her usual good deadpan job. There are also some funny reviews of “On the Art of Cinema” at its Amazon.com page, as well as the page for “On the Art of Opera,” to the point that the books are listed under “Humor & Entertainment.”

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Kim Jong-Il’s Aesthetics

  1. I don’t find the jokes humorous at all. Would we be so quick to joke if it were 2 million white people who had died of starvation and famine at the hands of an unjust, insane and monstrous dictator?

    • There have been similar jokes about Soviet culture boilerplate, for what it’s worth. I agree, as I said above, that none of this is funny to those who have to live under it.

  2. Like it says in the G&M today…

    “the idea that ruling clans can transform themselves from dictators into democrats on the basis of a brush with western culture or education is a faulty conceit.”

    Plus then we do the worst possible thing by isolating and sanctioning them.

    So now we have another mess on our hands that could be very dangerous.

    • Summary of your post:

      Point 1: Dictators won’t transform in to Democrats from a brush with western culture

      Point 2: We shouldn’t deny dictators a brush with western culture

      • Mmm no.
        It’s the people, not the dictators that need to learn about life outside their tiny forts.
        And it’s not ‘western culture’, it’s world culture.

        In this particular case, there have only been 2 leaders since the war….that’s a long time to tell an isolated country any kind of BS you want…..so the people have been told that they live well in comparison with the rest of the world, and that everyone is jealous of them.

        The people have no way of knowing that’s rubbish….which is why people in N Korea are openly sobbing in the streets today, instead of cheering.

        We could have changed that long ago.

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