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The Powerful Future of Mr. Jang

Shin Joo Hyun  |  2011-03-07 18:16
A prominent fortune teller in Yangkang and Hamkyung Provinces has declared that power in the post-Kim Jong Il era will rest with Mr. Jang, according to a source. In North Korea, where belief in superstition is exceedingly common, the declaration has attracted attention.

Mr. Jang refers to Jang Sung Taek, Director of the Ministry of Administration of the Chosun Workers' Party and a leading figure in the Kim Jong Il regime.

According to a source from Chongjin, "The fortune teller who stated that Mr. Jang would seize power after the General is rumored to be unusually talented, so everyone accepts it. They are tutting, saying that now Mr. Jang is the master of the world."

"Cadres and ordinary people visit fortune tellers when making decisions related to work, marriage or even defecting from North Korea, the source went on. Since they have not trusted the authorities since the currency redenomination and have no alternative sources of information, they set out business plans based on the words of fortune tellers."

Jang Sung Taek is not highly regarded by the North Korean people; trusted by Kim Jong Il, but taken to be one of those who led the country to ruin. Nevertheless, the source said, "Jang Sung Taek is a man of ambition and ability so it will be difficult for the Youth Captain (Kim Jong Eun) to resist him."

North Korean defectors and sources often mention a reliance on or belief in superstition. For example, in Dongkye Workers District, Baekam-gun in Yangkang Province, there is a well-known female fortune teller. She is 27 years old this year.

A North Korean defector from Yangkang Province commented, "I know her. People often seek her out when looking for a thief or lost animal. It is only possible for people to get to see her at night, because cadres who have a sick person at home visit her in the evening and take her to expel evil from their homes."

When the woman first became famous, the authorities tried to stop her activiities and security agents arrested her for spreading superstition. However, her father, who was set to be sent to a training camp, protested, "She doesnt do this because she wants to. If she does not do this, her body aches, so what are we supposed to do?"

At the time, the woman certainly looked very sick there in the police station, so, in the end, the security agents apparently released her out of fear of what might happen.

Since then she has become more popular. 10 years ago, it cost around 300-500 won to have her tell your fortune. Now, the cost of the same service is around 3,000 won. Some say she has the best job in North Korea.

Elsewhere, there is also said to be a talented female fortune teller in the Hyetan-dong area of Hyesan. She is in her late 30s, the wife of disabled military veteran. Even the citys cadres talk to her before starting a new business.

Pyongyang is not immune from this phenomenon, either. One North Korean defector from the city commented, "Even though I feared for my life, I was hesitant to run; however, an old woman told me that if I did not escape soon, I would die. She saw that I was in a complicated situation and told me, you must run away. So, I decided to escape from North Korea."

Another North Korean defector who left Yangkang Province in 2008 commented, "A great many people have starved to death, and the less they can trust the authorities, the more people are depending on their fortunes as time goes by. Starting 10 years ago, cadres asking about the future of their children, jobs, wedding dates and names for their children has become a sort of custom."

"As the economic crisis rolls on, there is not much hope in life here. Also, given the slow development of science and fading belief in absolute ruler Kim Jong Il, it is common for people to pin their hopes on superstition," he went on.

"Extraordinarily, they are correct on about 8 out of 10 predictions, he said. Therefore, people are keen to have their fortunes read."
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