North Korea

New North Korean Slogans Call for 'Socialist Fairyland,' 'Country of Mushrooms'

The regime marks its 70th anniversary with a new propaganda barrage.

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'Oh! I like that one about the fairyland.'

I've been addicted to Juche kitsch since my teens, when I would sometimes read an English-language North Korean newspaper just to gape at its weird, worshipful descriptions of Kim Il Sung. (This should give you the flavor.) It's easy to laugh at Pyongyang's propaganda, because the gap is so great between what it attempts and what it achieves: The language is supposed to soar, and instead it sounds ridiculous. An ordinary personality cult is laughable enough, but this one sounds like it's run by a syndicate of drunk surrealists.

Now the dictatorship has released 310 new slogans. To judge from the translations appearing in the Western press, that syndicate of surrealists seems to be even drunker than usual:

"Let the strong wind of fish farming blow across the country!"…

"Let us turn the whole country into a socialist fairyland by the joint operation of the army and people!"…

"Should the enemy dare to invade our country, annihilate them to the last man so that none of them will survive to sign the instrument of surrender!"…

"Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!"

Maybe it's too easy to laugh at Pyongyang's propaganda. We're reading it in English, after all, and it's surely possible that it got worse in translation. Westerners are willing to believe all kinds of dubious stories about the Kims' country; maybe we've been overstating just how strange its totalitarian prose is too. Maybe these slogans sound better in Korean.

Or maybe, if you actually have to live under that regime, they sound even worse.