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North Korean animation 'Gojumong' illustrates nationalism

Ahn Jong Sik, Deputy Head, SBS Political Department  |  2017-02-07 21:30
Jumong blocked the road in front of Gumuru. Gumuru was secretly carrying weapons made in Buyeo for delivery to Gojosun. Gojosun was at war with Chinese forces and Buyeo had no intention to interfere. 

Jumong: "Do you wish to harm the royal family of Buyeo with these weapons?"

Gumuru had been a staunch follower of Haemosu, Jumong's father, until he died. Gumuru reprimands Jumong, stating that Haemosu was a man who lived only for his people.

Gumuru: "Prince, your father did not lift his sword only for the royal family of Buyeo. He fought our enemies with sword in hand for the whole nation. I am only following his will. (ellipsis) I, Gumuru, will bring these weapons to the end. I will follow General Haemosu's path even if I am accused of being a traitor. How is this wrong and why are you trying to stop me? For whom are you fighting for now? For the people? Or only for the imperial family of Buyeo?"

This dialogue was an excerpt from the animated movie 'Gojumong', which has recently been receiving air time in North Korea through Korean Central TV (KCTV). The animation features strong undercurrents of Korean nationalism. Although it remains unclear whether Gojosun, Buyeo, Okjeo, and Samhan were all actual constituents of a singular nation at the time, the animation suggests that these states once comprised the Korean peninsula and shared between them a notion of kinship.

Western scholars studying nationalism have noted that the countries of Northeast Asia harbor strong elements of nationalism because they have been distinctly separate states for an extended period of time. Korea, Japan and China have all undergone diverse political changes, but on the whole, have succeeded in maintaining their national identities.

Due to the extended occupation of the Korean peninsula by imperial Japan in the early 20th century, the two Koreas also share a sense of nationalistic solidarity despite their different political systems and ideology. 

Nationalism exploited for political agendas can be dangerous

However, nationalism can be problematic in some scenarios. For example, discriminatory nationalism can be used as a means to suppress other people.

The North Korean regime uses nationalistic ideology to shore up its own political power. The Kim family has been at the helm of a dynastic totalitarian system, and seeks to legitimize its authority through a nationalistic identity. Its propaganda regularly portrays the Kim family as being the leadership necessary to end the division of the two Koreas and unite the nation.

Unfortunately, the nationalism espoused by the regime has long lost its credibility, as the country sinks into economic stagnation and faces allegations of human rights violations. However, it may be possible that the nationalist sentiment so emphasized by North Korea may eventually have some positive contribution toward consolidating the two Koreas. 

*Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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