The Histrionics of Grief in North Korea

Following the death of Kim Jong-Il, North Koreans took to the streets to mark their grief of their beloved Leader. I watched, mouth aghast, not believing if these scenes were real:

Amy Davidson has a brief post in The New Yorker about the hysterics of the North Koreans:

How does a whole crowd fake tears? Barbara Demick, in “Nothing to Envy,” her book on the ravaged social landscape of North Korea, collected accounts of how ordinary North Koreans set themselves to just that task after the death of Kim’s father, Kim Il-sung, back in 1994: “It was like a staring contest. Stare. Cry. Stare. Cry,” a student told her. “Eventually, it became mechanical. The body took over where the mind left off and suddenly he was really crying. He felt himself falling to his knees, rocking back and forth, sobbing just like everyone else.”

Cue Barbara Demick’s explanation of how the North Koreans grieve:

Those waiting in line would jump up and down, pound their heads, collapse into theatrical swoons, rip their clothes and pound their fists at the air in futile rage. The men wept as copiously as the women.

The histrionics of grief took on a competitive quality. Who could weep the loudest? The mourners were egged on by the TV news, which broadcast hours and hours of people wailing, grown men with tears rolling down their cheeks, banging their heads on trees, sailors banging their heads agains the masts of their ships, pilots weeping in the cockpit, and so on. These scenes were interspersed with footage of lightning and pouring rain. It looked like Armageddon.

Seems like history repeats itself.

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