The western media spends a lot of time trying to discern the murky motivations of Kim Jong-il, his newly appointed (and perhaps newly painted) successor-son Kim Jong-un and their fellow top-level military cadres. But I can’t help but wonder these days, more than ever, about what it’s like for the average soldier on the infertile, deforested ground.
Within a standing army recently estimated at just over one million soldiers, plus another seven million or so reserves, there are bound in the bunch to be some mental dissenters from the gay Worker’s Party line. Privates who come home to a meager meal and declare, “I’m getting too old for this brainwashing BS.”
While the American military is struggling more than ever before to justify its ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, there is I suspect – given the increased infiltration of outside news and information into the Hermit Kingdom – great strain on North Korea’s equivalent rule of conscripted behavior homogeneity. Think of it as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Yell.’
Palace of International Friendship guard
(Copyright Eric Lafforgue)
Part of the growing sense of political urgency in North Korea may well have something to do with the idea that the braintrust realizes it can count on the servitude of the world’s fourth largest army for a finite amount of time. It could be a matter of months, not years, before soldiers no longer refrain from publicly asking questions like, ‘Why did we bomb Yeonpyeong Island?’ and ‘What did the Cheonan ever do to us?’, or yelling out rhetorical objections such as ‘What the Jong does any of this have to do with getting a decent-sized food ration?”
Just as recent discussions on Capitol Hill involving Senator John McCain have rightly addressed the need to get rid of the U.S. Armed Forces ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, the Kim’s young and old probably understand that they only have a select amount of time before their prized armed forces will be bursting at the peasant-woven seams of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Yell.’