Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-Sung's Children's Books Are Predictably Terrifying
Parents, hide your children, or at least monitor their reading vigilantly. Australian researcher Christopher Richardson reports that former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, as well as his father, Kim Il-sung, are the masterminds behind at least two children's books designed to indoctrinate kids with party policies and the value of violence from an early age.
In his paper published in The International Review of Korean Studies , Richardson reports that Kim Jong-il is credited for a tale called "Boys Wipe Out Bandits," in which a beautiful village (a metaphor for North Korea) is attacked by ogres, but defeats them through what Richardson calls "the redemptive power of ultra-violence." Beneath the child-friendly façade, the story is one in which "cultural impurities, capitalist degeneracy, and rampant individualism are defeated by the pure virtue of the collective." According to an eBay listing for the book (which appears to be the only copy available for purchase online), an excerpt from the Introduction reads,
This illustrated story book is picturized from a fable told by the Dear Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il. One day in his younger days the Dear Leader told his friends about a clever boy who wiped out a group of bandits that had attacked his village. So he taught them a truth that one can defeat any enemy if one works one's wit and musters up courage, even when very young.
Perhaps he was following in his father's footsteps. Kim Il-sung is credited with a tale called "The Butterfly and The Cock," in which an evil rooster — symbolizing America — bullies all the other animals until a virtuous butterfly — symbolizing North Korea — steps in to save the day. No word on whether the current Supreme Leader of North Korean, Kim Jong-il's son Kim Jong-un, has carried on the family tradition and penned yet another inspiring tome for future generations.
It's likely that both existing fables where ghost-written by others. According to Richardson, this is not an unusual practice; governmental ghost writers are often used to "capture the essence of the leader's political and literary wisdom, known as 'the seed'."
(Screenshot from a video version of "The Butterfly and the Cock.")
Why waste time writing — or, um, "seeding" — children's stories when you have a country to run? Because serving up propaganda for the very young is an important part of maintaining consistent cultural and political ideology. Kim Jong-il even wrote a treatise called On Juche Literature, in which he declared that literature for children should "conform with our Party’s policy and our children’s characteristics," because children's culture from other countries can "mak[e] them incompetent beings for the times and revolution and prisoners of reactionary fatalism." When you've got a dictatorship to run, it's important to teach the children that everyone from outside the dictatorship is a bandit. Or a cock.