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North Korea was reported to have joined global scientists in their race to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. Despite this, Kim Jong-un claims there are no COVID-19 cases in the hermit state and only 922 people of its 25 million population had been tested as of July, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official claimed. An outbreak in the nation could prove a massive threat to the nation, as in the past it has relied heavily on medical vaccines and assistance from the WHO due to having a dilapidated healthcare system. While a highly infectious virus could cripple North Korea, a former-high ranking member of the state who defected in 2014 revealed what he believed would eventually topple the regime.
In the past, leaders of the regime have been admired as god-like figures due to the government’s ability to propagate wild theories about their rulers and citizens’ limited access to the outside world.
North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung, known as ‘The Great Leader’, was said to have been able to turn “grains of sand into rice” in claims that lie among a plethora of outlandish mistruths.
In recent years, the state has distanced itself from previous impossible claims under Kim Jong-un, including the public denial that his family are not able to time travel.
Some of these claims came to light because of Jang Jin-sung, one of six poet laureates appointed by former leader Kim Jong-il, who revealed the power of these myths after he defected.
He claimed that they created an alternate reality for many citizens and that the regime will fall once their rulers’ lies are exposed, in his May 2014 memoir ‘Dear Leader’.
He wrote: “The only power that will undermine the dictatorship of the mind is the realisation that it is possible not only for the regime to lie to its people, but that it has done so, deliberately and constantly.
“My people cannot be free until each of us acknowledges that the Revolutionary History of the Leader is not the true reality of North Korea.”
He believed that while “brutal political camps”, where dissidents are sent for disobeying the rules, kept citizens in-line the greater threat was the “dictatorship of the mind”.
Jang elaborated that leaders have created a “political prison where thought and expression are stifled”.
He wrote: “North Korea’s dictatorship of force over its people – its police-state system, the inescapable surveillance, the party’s invocation of the ‘Supreme Leader’s will’, overruling even the national constitution – cannot end while the dictatorship of the mind prevails.”
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Prior to him fleeing to South Korea in 2014, Jang worked in Office 101, the poetry division of the government’s propaganda department.
There he crafted pro-Kim Jong-il literature, which he wrote under the alias of a South Korean named Kim Kyong-min under the instruction to conjure fake support from outside the nation.
He was responsible for writing messages to promote “pro-North tendencies” and “amplify anti-American sentiment”.
Jang was recognised by the leader after he penned the poem ‘Spring Rests on the Gun Barrel of the Lord’, which was distributed across the nation in 1999.
The piece recalled a fictional “massacre of activists” by a South Korean who then found “protection and peace” under the Kims’ regime after he visited Pyongyang – the nation’s capital.
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This led him to become one of six poet laureates, part of the “admitted” few, who were then-allowed access to books from the “hundred copy collection” – a restricted section of literature only available to the elite.
He said: “In North Korea, gaining access to any foreign culture is a crime of ‘revisionism’.”
Jang illegally lent a “restricted book” – which included a biography of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il written by a South Korean academic – to a friend who accidentally lost it.
It detailed the “infidelity and violent purges in the Kim family” which “contradicted the official Revolutionary History” and his decision to allow someone outside of the selected few to read it was a “treasonous” act.
He wrote: “When the authorities found out about my transgression I had no choice but to escape to South Korea.”
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