North Korea is proud of its many virtues. They are a model of uniformity.
By Jack Hoehn
There have been many repressive, oppressive, and idolatrous nations throughout history, but the most repressive, oppressive, and idolatrous nation today is the dishonestly named so-called “Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea” with its unholy trinity of dead Grandfather, dead Father, and living Son of the Kim family as absolute dictators and worshiped megalomaniacs.
Kim Il-sung (the family name comes first in Korean, like Hoehn John Byron “Jack” would be my name Korean style) the present dictator’s grandfather, started the dynasty as a communist general fighting the Japanese and became the Supreme Leader of North Korea in 1948, and by his death in 1994 he had turned the entire nation into a personal cult. He was not even willing to share the glory with Marx and Lenin of his Russian and Chinese partners, so he replaced communism with his own even stricter and personalized totalitarianism called “Juche.”
At his death North Koreans bowed before his ubiquitous statues and wept for their Supreme Leader, who replaced not only all other men, but all other gods with his so called benevolence. Even today young North Korean men stand guard over his Teaching Centers (that are the feature of every village and town in the country as if temples of a passed god), standing guard “in honor” of Kim Il-sung all night long even during the coldest winters.
The following is from the firsthand reporting of a woman named Suki Kim, who has written a book about living in North Korea as a teacher at a special University reserved for the sons of North Korea’s ruling elite, where she taught them English under very restricted circumstances. Her book is called “Without You, There Is No Us”[i] after one of the many slogans used by North Koreans in their worship of their dictators.
Korean television consists entirely of three channels and those are mostly available in the capital city of Pyongyang. KECN (Korean Educational and Cultural Network) is on just a couple of hours each day. Mansudae TV is on only on weekends and only for residents of Pyongyang. So the only functioning channel for most of the country is Chosun Central TV, on from 5 pm to 11 pm in the evenings. The main event is the 7 pm evening news for 25 minutes. It is almost exclusively about their dictator. When Kim Jong-il was still alive, the news was his visiting factories and the news was whatever he said at that occasion, verbatim. I presume the same is now done for his successor son, Kim Jong-un.
International news is rarely given and only when it is negative for South Korea or the United States of America. All Korean boys are taught these are their enemies and that to kill a South Korean or an American enemy would be their highest honor. From childhood and from morning till night, and then through the night standing at guard duty, they are fed the same lies: North Korea is the most prosperous and happiest nation in the world; all the world longs to have the same Kimchi-soured cabbage that Koreans pickle by the ton to help them survive the cold long winters; all the nations of the earth honor and respect their system of Juche as the wisest political system in the world; the draconian limits on any personal freedoms are “for the good of the motherland.”
After the evening news the next program is 30 minutes of Government-sponsored music programs with lyrics scrolled across the screen karaoke-style. The songs have titles like “Defend the Headquarters of Revolution” which describes the North Korean people as “bombs and bullets.” There are no commercials, of course, but the news is sometimes interrupted by Kim Jong-il quotations.
Then another music program comes on, this time featuring a group of men playing the accordion to a song about Kim Jong-il. Movies or plays that are shown are invariably from Communist China or before Perestroika Soviet Russia. When their North Korean soap opera released in 1972 was shown in China they were told, “The streets of China are empty because every one in China is home watching it.” “The Flower Girl” was, of course, written by their Eternal President Kim Il-sung! It starred a 17-year-old who became one of Great Leader Kim Jong-il’s mistresses. No one anyplace, including China, would be interested in this 45-year-old film, but the North Korean people are fed the same lies over and over and over again.
Difficult to Have to Think
The hardest part of the English lessons taught the bright North Korean college student is to teach the writing of an essay. The concept that you should write to prove an idea to your readers by offering an argument and then giving evidence to prove it is foreign to boys taught from childhood to believe whatever the Great Leader said is true, and to parrot it back, without the benefit of thought or proof being necessary. They of course have no access to the World Wide Web; this is strictly forbidden except to those employed in cyber warfare under complete secrecy that no North Korean knows about.
But Suki Kim writes, “Misinformation and lack of information were not the only problems in teaching them how to write an essay. In their storytelling, a conclusion was always predetermined.” “At the end [of a skit or drama they had produced] the whole cast again burst into a song about their gratitude to the Workers’ Party. The exact reason why they suddenly thanked their Party was unclear, but all of the skits ended, regardless of plot, with a song of gratitude to either their Leader or their Party.”
The students find it hard to think for themselves, because all their lives they have been taught and required on pain of punishment, banishment, or death to blindly repeat their dogmas. “In [t]his country there was no proof, no checks and balances—unless of course, they wanted to prove that the Great Leader had singlehandedly written hundreds of operas and thousands of books and saved the nation and done a miraculous number of things. Their entire system was designed not to be questioned, and to squash critical thinking…The writer of an essay acknowledges the arguments opposing his thesis and refutes them. Here, opposition was not an option.”
Dogma Controlling Education
The teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) is completely controlled. All teaching plans have to be approved by North Korean “Counterparts,” or minders. All classes have formal monitors in them to report any deviation from protocol. Students themselves have assigned buddies, and they are expected to report any unfaithfulness to their monitors. These partnerships are regularly replaced to prevent true friendships from forming. The phone calls and conversations of the foreign teachers are always monitored. No unsupervised travel is permitted off campus without minders in attendance.
This totalitarian state has 24 million people under complete governmental control. For nearly 70 years they have a uniform united belief that has not been seriously questioned. This is a little larger than the estimates of membership in the SDA church, but there is not a whiff of dissent seen in that congregation.
North Korean Pride
There are no homosexuals in North Korea, there is no formal mechanism for divorce, they have free health care and free education, and pornography is non-existent. Women are said to have equal rights, but fill no leadership positions, and the young elite males at PUST feel that fellow female students are pleased when the male student gives a female student his laundry to be done by her. The government rewards women who contribute to the good of the Party by allowing them access to plastic surgery. There are no high female leaders in the Worker’s Party except wives or concubines of the top male leaders.
All young people do obligatory gardening or other manual labor weekly “for the good of the nation.” The students have daily exercises at 5 am before breakfast and classes, summer or winter. The North Koreans even have their own chronological system. All dates begin for North Korea with the birth of their Great General Kim Il-sung on April 15, which is a national holiday and the starting date for their calendar as year zero. Their other holidays are Great Leader Kim Jong-il’s birthday, February 16. They have a December 24 holiday too, but it is not Christmas Eve; it is the birthday of Great Leader’s wife, and the day he was given the title of Supreme Commander of the Korean’s People’s Army, surely a wonderful day for all believers to celebrate. On January 1, at start of the New Year, everyone gets up early and goes to statues of both Great Leaders to give thanks for all the blessings they receive.
So, by control of access to information for 24 million North Koreans, by constant repetition of the same dogmas week after week after week, by misinterpretation of the world as a dangerous place and each North Korean a soldier ready to die to kill South Korean and American enemies, by demanding belief in dogma without questioning those beliefs, North Koreans have been led to behave, believe, and parrot back their dogmas without questioning them. They believe that their world, as far as anything counts, is 115 years old.
A Nation of Slaves
18 million Seventh-day Adventists have been told by the vote of the General Conference and our Great Leader, that against all the information available the earth was created in six 24-hour days, like our present American week, and this happened recently. Not perhaps exactly 6,000 years ago, but surely not thousands or millions or billions of years ago!
Against all probability or possibility, we are now told that the land of Noah covered by the flood had to include the entire globe, even though the Bible knows nothing of a globe. We are told this and require our teachers to teach this, even though knowledgeable people know it cannot be and is in fact not true.[ii] For the sake of “unity” and for “the good of the church,” we must teach this error to our children, and have them parrot these beliefs back without thinking too much about evidence for them.
Caption: Great Leaders of course have an Executive Committee to keep them in line.
North Korea proves that the same lies and half-truths repeated religiously and drummed into people discouraged from even acknowledging that there are other interpretations available for the same data, by dishonest and one-sided use of data, by putting dogma before facts, and twisting any facts to fit the dogma, have created a nation of slaves.
How Error Becomes Sin
The worship of a cherished interpretation of the Bible stories over the facts available to all who wish to know them is an idolatry that must not stand. The elevation of ignorance to fundamental belief is our shame and our battle cry. When we were ignorant of the age of the earth, it was still an error to believe earth was about six thousand years old. Now that we know the facts, it is no longer an “error” to hold to a recent chronology; it is a “sin.”[iii]
If being true to the Bible requires lies and deception, there is something wrong with our use of the Bible. The following dates are not exact but they are in fact correct in scope, if not in detail.
- The universe is about 13.8 Billion years old, from when God said, “Let there be Light.”
- The physical Earth was created in just the right place at just the right time; about 4.5662 billion years ago it was “formless and void.”
- The moon was created by a cosmic collision 40 million years later, creating the essential conditions for life.
- The creation of an atmosphere that could support carbon-based life started with bacteria about 3.8 billion years ago, the necessary “firmament.”
- The creation of ferns and then sea creatures and then dinosaurs and then birds and then mammals has largely happened over the last 600 million years or so.
- The creation of modern humans in the image of Godlikeness to rule this world happened sometime 60,000 to 200,000 years ago, although these dates are less certain than the other dates listed. Archeology has shown a cultural “big bang” 40,000 to 45,000 years ago, perhaps after Noah’s flood. But there are caves in South Africa with engraved ostrich eggs dating back 60,000 years, and heat-treated microlith blades between 70,000 and 80,000 years ago. DNA mutation rates of the Y-chromosome back to the genetic Adam and of mitochondria back to the genetic Eve are more speculative, but yield estimates of from 50,000 to 300,000 years ago, with a consensus hovering about 100,000 years ago.[iv]
Anyone who tells you creation happened about 6,000 years ago, is someone who lived and wrote more than 50 years ago before this information became available, is ignorant of the recently established facts, blinded to them by their dogma, or ruling North Korea. I regret being so blunt but someone has to tell the emperor he has no clothes.
Your Bible tells this same story (without dates attached) in an outline form as a beautiful poem of creation, more precisely and beautifully than any of the creation stories before or after it.[v]
The first angel’s message in Revelation 14 tells all the world to worship Him WHO made it; not a word, however, is mentioned about worshiping WHEN or HOW God created.[vi]
Scientific and Religious Truth Both Progressive
Let Seventh-day Adventists get on with our job of being truth tellers and truth seekers. All that North Korea needs is full access to the truth, and they could join the civilized world again.
Caption: Women have their place in North Korea, marching in uniformity
to the Great Leader’s command.
All that Adventism needs is full acknowledgment of the truths of science, so we can combat the errors of science. Evolutionists are wrong about mechanisms and purposes of creation. Young Earth Creationists are wrong about the chronology of creation. Until we admit where they are right on the age of the earth, we have no standing to show them where they are wrong crediting materialism with the power of design.
Until we accept the truths God has given us through science, we are in rebellion against truth and the God of truth. Hiding behind the pages of the Bible against solid scientific facts damages both the credibility of the Bible and the credibility of the truth denier. Science is often wrong, but its strength is that it is willing to change based on evidence. Religion must likewise be open to change. Here is how Great Leaders of Adventism have expressed it:
“The great principle … that truth is progressive, that Christians should stand ready to accept all the light which may shine from God’s holy word, was lost sight of by their descendants… Though a few faithful men arose, from time to time, to proclaim new truth and expose long-cherished error, the majority, like the Jews in Christ’s day or the papists in the time of Luther, were content to believe as their fathers had believed and to live as they had lived. Therefore religion again degenerated into formalism; and errors and superstitions which would have been cast aside had the church continued to walk in the light of God’s word, were retained and cherished.” [vii]
“You shall know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.”[viii]
North Korea and Adventism both need to listen to these truly Great Leaders and return to a platform of Truth.
[i] Kim, Suki. (2014) Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite. New York: Crown Publishers.
[ii] There are Adventist theologians who argue for the sake of their interpretation that it should be true, but there are no Adventist geologists who argue that it is or can be true.
[iii] James 4:17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
[iv] See Ross, Hugh, (2014). Navigating Genesis. Covina, California: Reasons to Believe. Pages 15, 39, and 72-75 with references for a Christian scientist’s views of a chronology of creation that agrees with the scientific consensus.
[v] Biblical Hebrew has no word for era or age, except yom, which means day, or “back in the day.” The Biblical translation “evening and morning” is not the usual way to describe a 24 hour day (we use “morning and evening”) so in Genesis it can be translated as “darkening” and “lightening” suggesting each Creation Day was imperfect or dark at the start of the age like a night, and was better or light after God’s creative action at the end of the age like daylight. See: Hoehn, Jack. Adventist Today, The Greater Controversy. Winter 2015, pages 14-21.
[vi] Hoehn, Jack. Adventist Today, Summer, 2015 GC Issue. Page 52.
[vii] White, Ellen G. (1911). The Great Controversy. Page 297. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press.
[viii] John 8:32.
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