Prague, November 26, Juche 107 (2018) – The book of Nina Špitálníková with an irreverent title „Between Two Kims – on studies in the DPRK“ (People’s Newspaper Publishing House, Prague 2017) received a considerable media response, partly thank to extensive scandalizing of socialist Korea by the author, partly because the soul of a Czech petty-bourgeoisie directly wanders about the information that somewhere else (supposedly) people are living wrong, and that in our country there is a paradise on earth. The popularity of the book was probably contributed by the fact that there were not many Czech students in the DPRK. Thanks to the activities of Nina Špitálníková, there will not be many in the foreseeable future either.
In spite of the 181 pages, Špitálníková does not bring too many first-hand experiences and insights from People’s Korea, but instead much of the book consists of quoting dubious testimonies and books of all sorts of foreign reactionaries, all wholly tendentious. Among them is the „work“ of the traitor Park Yeon Mi, whose moral profile describes the documentary film „Poisonous mushroom that grew up on a pile of garbage“, available on the internet with English subtitles. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-3YHtohv4w&t=371s)
The passages mocking the policy of the Workers‘ Party of Korea and its supreme leadership are based on a capitalist understanding of the functioning of society as the only alternative, with its individualist concept of „freedom and democracy“ and „human rights“ where the individual is superior to the collective, and man is a wolf to man. It is understandable that an external observer with such understanding and notion of values can hardly understand the longstanding effort of the people’s Korea to educate a new human being.
I must point out that a large part of the arguments against Korean socialism were taken over by Špitálníková from other sources. Her own description of her stay in Pyongyang (in 2011 and 2012), including three trips to the countryside, is fairly plausible, with no attempt to fake the sensation, not trying to defame everything at all costs. In this respect, the author pleasantly surprised me. However her conclusion is roughly that a beautiful country with good people is spoiled by bad political leadership.
I do not want to address the question why socialist society is better than capitalist. This is what the greatest thinkers of human history have illuminated more than 100 years ago, and a century ago they began to practice in the first place.
It is very showy to ignore the achievements in the construction and defence of socialism in the DPRK and to pinpoint the shortcomings, especially without regard to the cruel and utterly unfair international sanctions and military threats that have been blocking economic development for decades and force the peaceful Korean people to make tremendous efforts and invest to national defence. The horrific fact that the American imperialists and their vassals have left behind a devastated country after the Korean War, where, in addition to three million killed people, they destroyed almost all the buildings and infrastructure.
It is easy to point to the hoary facades of some houses, to road holes, dusty side streets and less important roads, or to the fact that sometimes there is no electricity or hot water, several years after the arduous march, when it was literally about survival. Most of the capitalist countries have never faced so severe international pressure and bad weather as DPRK, yet in the capitalist countries we find all the slums and ghettos where electricity and water are never even introduced, not to mention hot water or even the condition of houses and roads. Even unpaved streets can be found in Prague. But why compare it with the Czech Republic, which had significantly better historical conditions for development? Compare cities and countryside of the DPRK with other Asian countries! However, they are not criticized because they are capitalist or „market socialist“, which is economically the same.
The Czech Republic, which considers itself as scientific-technologically and politically developed country, and teaches others in this respect, is unlike the DPRK full of homeless people, beggars, street thieves and prostitutes. None of the Czech delegates of friendship ever saw such a thing in the DPRK. The other friendship delegations also make this point.
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic is also described by reactionaries as the country of hoary buildings, but even when the older houses were shabby because there were other priorities, all the houses were functional and inhabited. Long-term abandoned buildings and modern ghettos are a problem after 1990. And there are towns and villages in the Czech Republic, not in the DPRK, where we can see alongside the magnificent residences of nabobs and the dilapidated ruins, showing the ever-increasing social differences.
I myself have not been to DPRK before 2017, but according to many available photographs, films, and memories of visitors from earlier years, I can confirm that hoary houses are gradually repaired or replaced by new buildings and gradually improving roadways, condition of vehicles or electricity supply. It is no longer true that „after sunset, Pyongyang finds itself in the dark and it is easy to get lost.“ In April 2018, significant streets were illuminated by 1 am. Then the traffic is minimal in the streets and there is no reason to light up. Several night-time pedestrians and drivers shine themselves and, unlike capitalist countries, there is no need to worry about the out-of-the-way streets.
Trickery and gossip
Many of the allegations from the book on the functioning of the society in the DPRK cannot be confronted with official sources and information from local citizens because they are not mentioned to foreigners. For the heroic Korean people it is not dignified to argue with some rumours and provocations. And most foreigners would not understand many aspects of the functioning of the local society. Due to the criminal machinations of the imperialists and their flunkeys, the Land of the Morning Calm, even 65 years after the armistice, must function as a military fortress. And in a military fortress, everyone cannot do what he wants, walk where he wants and photograph what he wants. Guest not particularly.
But even if DPRK citizens openly responded to all the questions of sensationalist strangers, the opponents would usually answer that they are lies spoken only by duty. However, the defectors, representing about 0.01% of the population of north Korea, are certainly „always right“ and they are a „credible specimen“ for public opinion research. Although Špitálníková admits that those „politically interesting“ are paid by the south Korean intelligence service.
A common legend in the description of the functioning of the society in north Korea is the „songbun class system „. Types of data that „the core belongs to 28% of the population, (…) three classes are divided into 51 subcategories“, are nothing documented. Socialist society of DPRK, of course, is not non-class society. There are differences between individual professions, between physical and mental work, between the city and the village. Scientific and technological development is diminishing them, but they still exist. The basic principle of the functioning of socialist society is remuneration according to the quantity and quality of work. It is perfectly understandable that citizens who have achieved extraordinary success in building and defending their homeland, have shown extraordinary talent or heroism and are highly conscious and politically committed, are better rewarded. No better reward system exists. If we have a certain amount of benefits that we cannot provide for everyone, is it fair to parcel them by accidentally drawing in the lottery or the first in the alphabet…? (Incidentally, how are the best workers rewarded by capitalists? Frequently by adding more work for the same reward or getting rid of them in order not to interfere with less able superiors …)
Certain phenomena described, particularly those related to organization, discipline, single-hearted unity and class consciousness of north Korean society, are negatively rendered in the book, although in fact they are a great growth of the Korean Revolution that is unmatched in the present world or in human history.
The author laughs at self-criticism, but she does not say that it is criticism and self-criticism. Is a better the capitalist approach with a careerist effort to attribute all the successes to myself, and all the problems impinging on others?
Corruption is criticized but it is not added that Korean leadership is aware of this problem; corruption is punishable and definitely seeks to overcome it, as noted by the Respected Comrade Supreme Leader in a speech at the 7th Congress of the Workers‘ Party of Korea in May 2016 and in the New Year’s Speech 2017. (But if the „democratic“ world learns that someone has been punished for corruption, it rages that his „human right“ to corrupt and be corrupted was disturbed.)
The description of growing market elements in the economy is cautionary. The experience of former socialist countries demonstrates their fatality. On the other hand, it is difficult to defend relatively small country in the siege of capitalist states and „market socialist“ China with 90 % of foreign trade (of course on market principles). Documents from the DPRK and all previous practice show that leadership of the Party and State understands this danger and leads a determined campaign to preserve and deepen class and patriotic consciousness and respect for revolutionary traditions.
An incomparable example
The chapter on partnerships and marital relationships is quite credible despite some boldness. The stability and the moral level of these relationships can be exemplified by the liberated part of Korea as an example to the whole world, full of broken families, unhappy lonely people, and sexual violence, the cohesive individualism of which is a common cause.
Similarly, people’s Korea is an incomparable example for the entire world in fashion and the general brush-up of its people. These are described quite accurately in the book. It is a pleasure to look at a society without tattoos or piercings, without hairy men, punks, eccentric with coloured hair, deliberately torn clothing, no barbarians going even to the theatre in a baggy shirt and jeans, just a society of high culture of clothing and behaviour. It is a society without wastrels who cannot engage their surroundings other than shocking appearance or behaviour. It is also essential that very nicely dressed and brushed-up women do not have to worry that they are the target of shameful remarks or harassment as in bourgeois society.
It is a ridiculous assertion that women in Pyongyang should not wear trousers and do so only because they „learned when and where patrols (checking clothes) are located and these places are trying to avoid at the time. The women in trousers walk along the busiest streets. (and democracy is not judged by how many women are wearing trousers and how many skirts!)
Dubious and unsubstantiated “information” is cited on the question of wages and prices. For example, if an apartment (owned by the state) could be bought or sold at a price of $ 100,000 and the wage or salary was somewhere around 2 EUR (!), such a system would absolutely not work! In fact, DPRK is the only country in the world providing housing to all its citizens
The other experiences about shopping roughly correspond to our experience. The fact that foreigners pay with foreign currencies is convenient for both sides. Little practical is the coincidence of three foreign currencies.
Interesting is the chapter devoted to eating. The beer festival, which is described here as a regular affair, took place only once.
This is followed by the depiction of the Arirang mass gymnastics and arts festival in 2012. „In the society where individual human rights and labour are respected, this performance is not possible,“ says the author. Yes, in a society where everyone can selfishly do what he wants (if he has money), no matter what the other and against them, there is almost no meaningful organized performance possible. The labour is hardly appreciated in any other country as in DPRK. Indeed, it is mentioned in the name of has the Workers‘ Party of Korea, the leading power of the whole society, and its Newspaper of labour (Rodong sinmun).
The duration of military service mentioned in the chapter about Arirang referred to „three to five years“ from the age of 17 and in the label of one photograph contrary to the 10 years. The fact is that the start of the military service and the length of service are not unanimous. Just last year, more than three million volunteers joined the Korean People’s Army and their number was so great that not all applicants were recruited. It is not surprising, since children are brought up from the earliest age to the warm patriotism and the defense of the socialist homeland.
The preposition that „there are no trash bins in the country“ does not correspond to the reality. Even such curiosity can be used in an anti-Korean campaign. Not only do they exist, but order in the streets and public spaces can alienate all the strangers from aesthetic, not only political, perspective. Also curious is the statement about the 50-minute weather forecast on television. The full broadcasts of Korean Central TV can also be seen on the Internet and weather forecasts are similar to ours for about two minutes. And there is nothing comical about being „from 5 to 30 degrees“ – such a difference between the temperature at the peak of Paektusan and the warmest places really is.
Fairy-tales about transportation
Pyongyang is characterized by Špitálníková as „a more than two millionth metropolis“ (in terms of interpretation on page 193, it is already 3.222 million, as the „World Population Review“ mentions), „with metro, bus and trolleybus transportation“. The trams are somewhat overlooked by the author, but he later mentions them, with the operation of „used cars from Europe“. In fact, at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, renewal of operations destroyed during the Korean War was delivered to new cars, older ones were added later.
It is not true that foreigners are only allowed to ride a one station by subway. On the contrary, the Pyongyang Metro attracts tourists from all over the world who are interested in public transport, technology and architecture, and participants of thematic tours can view and photograph the entire network (two routes) and all stations.
What the opponents of the people of Korea agree, and what is very positive is the fact that public transport is almost free.
The airline of the DPRK „Air Koryo“ calls Špitálníková „one of the world’s most dangerous airliners with a ban on flying in the EU due to unfulfilled security requirements.“ The website of the European Commission states that two of the Air Koryo airplanes are allowed in the EU territory. According to the available list of aircraft, the vast majority of international flights are now provided by machines manufactured after 2007. In the notes of the Špitálníková book, however, it is erroneously stated that Air Koryo „operates exclusively with aircraft of Soviet production.“ The reason for stopping foreign flights outside of China and Russia was mainly sanctions, not safety. This is confirmed by the list of Air Koryo destinations on English Wikipedia. In the 65 years since the end of the Korean War, the DPRK had one serious airplane crash. However, only in the case of the DPRK, traffic accidents are abused to scandalize the entire state. If such a catastrophe occurs with a carrier from a capitalist country, no one will attempt to associate it with capitalism or the leadership of that state…
The very favourable impression of Air Koryo is decayed to passengers only by the chaos and possible delay in check-in at the congested Beijing airport.
Excessive is the mention that the cities are today „crowded by cars“. Especially in Pyongyang there is relatively strong traffic on some streets, but I have not seen traffic jams here. I was not in other big cities, but the photos and the movies do not show intense traffic. The level of development of a country is definitely not measured by the number of cars. Socialism as a collectivist society must emphasize public transport. This was also highlighted by the Respected Comrade Supreme Leader during the field guidance of the new tram and trolleybus in August 2018. It is a great blessing for the DPRK to avoid traffic collapse caused by overburdened individual car traffic and to keep (unlike many capitalist countries) a tram and trolleybus transport and do not cancel the railways, and I hope it will remain so and the public transport will overcome the inherited difficulties of the arduous march and will continue to develop.
Trust but verify
The case of Nina Špitálníková, which the socialist state made possible to study for two years at the best and most famous university in the country, and she revenges after her return by the perpetual seditious campaign against the flower garden and the cradle of human happiness, testifies to paying attention to the activities of foreigners sojourning in the homeland of Juche. However, it is exaggerated to say that after every conversation between a DPRK citizen and a foreigner, he or she has to „provide the competent office with a precise description of the content of the conversation, and such testimony may take several hours.“ (Imagine a waitress who, for several hours, explains that the foreigner ordered a beer.) Although the book is a full of annotations, this claim is not covered by the source, also as the alleged propaganda misinformation about the national football team winning the World Cup and taking the first prize personally by the Respected Comrade Supreme Leader.
I was amazed by remark that the Kimilsungia flower was named by the Indonesian botanist Sukarno after the Great Leader as an expression of his admiration. It was not a botanist but an architect, but he was above all the first Indonesian president.
It is not true that in DPRK foreign music does not play, which is said to „have a bad influence on the body and the soul“ (though many of them has no doubt). The domestic music, national by form and socialist by content prevails, but also music from Russia, China and other music is played, whether original or Korean, or instrumental. It is both modern and classical music. But we do not find any bankruptcy styles and texts in it, which is quite right. Among the classical music played at the ceremonial concerts for important events, Czech Julius Fučík’s „Entrance of the Gladiators“ is repeated, and in the rotary restaurant of Koryo Hotel in April 2017 we heard Czech symphonic poem „The Moldau“ („Vltava“) from Bedřich Smetana.
Some extra horror
In the chapter on justice, sentences in the DPRK are interpreted as severe, brutal, and extensive, that if those claims were to be based on the truth, no one in this country could actually commit the slightest offense (which would be ideal, but neither the exemplary country of socialism does not live in a vacuum, and there are reactionary influences from abroad, and there are past remnants, so a degree of criminality naturally exists, as everywhere in the world), or all of them were already imprisoned or even executed. Most prominent is how the hard conditions in roughly guarded work camps are depicted on one side, where the guard has the right to shoot anyone who tries to escape, and on the other hand some defectors claim that they have escaped from such a camp but have gone unnoticed a large part of Korea, and then crossed the state border equally unnoticed…
I was surprised by Nina Špitálníková’s emphasis on „the right not to be tortured,“ which is allegedly violated in the DPRK. According to her apparently visible self-harming attitude, I would rather have suspense of her for „the right to be tortured“.
Accurate is an example of the fatal fate of those defectors who succumb to foreign or south Korean human traffickers, who force DPRK citizens in China or south Korea to work in tragic and slavish conditions. But there is no added that many such defectors were not motivated politically, but only economically, with the vision of well-paid employment. After learning bitter reality, they want to return to DPRK, but the south Korean puppet government or the Chinese Mafia will not allow them.
The cream of bourgeois koreanism
The final chapter of the book is dedicated to the history of the DPRK; of course in the interpretation of the imperialists, including the usual fairy-tale that DPRK launched the Korean War. Certainly, the history of the United States to the present proves that this superpower is absolutely peaceful, that it could not attack…
The real mistake is the assertion that the Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il was „immediately appointed after the death of his father as General Secretary of the Workers‘ Party of Korea and Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK“, while in fact he was elected (not appointed) the Chairman of the National Defence Commission in April 1993, during the lifetime of the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung and the Secretary General of the WPK in October 1997, more than three years after the eternal president passed away.
Completely misleading is information about the „execution of the regime’s top officials“ after the election of the Respected Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un to the highest party and state positions. Since then, one of the highest representatives has been executed. By contrast, most senior officials held important positions in the party and society already during the revolutionary leadership of the Great Leader and the Great General.
The birth of the Respected Comrade Supreme Leader is apparently by typing error in the book dated back to 1994. It was apparently only linguistic roughness to write that „days of birth and passing away (of the Great Leaders) are celebrated as north Korean national holidays.“ The anniversary of passing away is not, of course, a holiday or a celebration.
One of the many legends is also the statement that the era of Juche is dated from the birthday of the Great Leader (April 15, 1912). Špitálníková had stayed in DPRK long enough to notice that the era (style) of Juche has the same days as our year, beginning with 1. 1.
Some startling transcription and translation errors are made by this “famous Koreanist“.
The flower garden will not become poisonous with mushrooms
If I am to make a final assessment of the seditious pamphlet of the fallen provocateur Špitálníková, I do not find a more appropriate expression for this lackey of imperialism than that used by the Korean comrades for the traitor Park Yeon Mi: „A poisonous mushroom that grew up on a pile of garbage.“
First Vice-Chairman of Paektusan Czech-Korean Friendship Association
and Czech Group for Study and Materialization of the Juche Idea