Inspired by film about peasant rebellion, residents fume about injustice

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2017-04-05 17:27
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North Korean residents are reflecting on inequality in their society for which the regime is responsible, thanks to the renewed popularity of a historical movie called Im Kkeok Jung. The movie depicts a 1559 peasant rebellion by a band of thieves who set up camp in an egalitarian mountain village called Chongsokgol. 

Although ordinary residents struggle through the annual food shortages associated with the agricultural hardship period, North Koreas political cadres live in luxury apartments packed with South Korean televisions and other expensive items. The situation is in stark contrast to the fictional town of Chongsokgol, where people are shown living in equality regardless of their social status or family history. The comparison between the ideal society presented in Im Kkeok Jung and the very different reality that ordinary North Koreans face is stirring resentment towards North Koreas ruling elite.   

There are many families in the surrounding area that lack food security, said an inside source from Ryanggang Province during a telephone call with Daily NK on March 31. I think the number is over 60%. The problem is particularly severe in Kimjongsuk County and Samsu County. Its becoming common for residents to quip to one another, I want to find Chongsokgol and live there.  

People are weary and exhausted from the struggle of everyday life, she added. Theyre saying that it would be better to live together with other poor people in an equal society like the one depicted in Im Kkeok Jung.  

Im Kkeok Jung is a five-part movie created by the Korean Film Studio and directed by Jang Yong Bok. In the film, the character Im Kkeok Jung defies aristocratic bureaucrats and sets out to abolish the oppressive social ranking system. To do so, he sets up camp at Chongsokgol. The mountainside villages name has become synonymous with egalitarianism and is presented as a utopia. 

While marketization has indeed led to a swelling upper class, but those unable to advance in the modern economy have been left behind and exploited by those with money to spend. Reporting from Daily NK's sources across the country corroborates these developments and suggest that the residents frustrations with Kim Jong Un and the elite cadres are growing in intensity.   

When people are alone with their family members, it has become a regular occurrence to ridicule Kim Jong Un. People call him immature, citing his lack of personal life experience as the reason for his inability to understand the needs of the common person. Residents ask, How can any political leader succeed when they enter politics at such a young age? a source in North Hamgyong Province said.

These days, residents complain directly to party cadres, saying, Are you trying to starve us all to death? All the cadres can do is grin sheepishly in response."

Residents are doing everything within their power to simply survive and try to better their lives, but nothing has meaningfully improved, said an additional Ryanggang-based source. Looking at the lifestyles of the cadres today, they remark that, Life today is exactly the same as it was during the time of Im Kkeok Jung. Quite a few people regularly talk about going to extreme lengths to live in a place like Chongsokgol.  

As previously reported by Daily NK, many residents in Ryanggang Province responded critically to a Korean Central News Agency television broadcast showing an engine test for a long range missile during a period of food shortages.

*Edited by Lee Farrand

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