North Korean Military

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The DPRK is intensely militaristic. Ten percent of the population, i.e. more than 15% of the workforce, is employed by the military. Their enemy #1 is not South Korea. Nor is it, of course, China or Russia. No. Their sworn enemy is the United States because its troops are right there, on the other side of the DMZ. But that’s not all! The Americans, I’m told, have taken advantage of the situation to brainwash the Koreans living in the south and turn them into their puppets. That’s why there’s no South Korea per se. It is, more accurately, the US, occupying that part of Korea. Ha! So you’re set right on this important topic.

That’s one thing.

The other thing is that there is one country that North Koreans despise and hate with all their guts, and it’s not the US. It’s Japan. Japan through and through. Japan, which invaded not just once, but tons of times. Japan, which forced them to adopt Japanese customs, Japanese language, and even to build Japanese-style homes. Japan, which raped their women. Japan, which last invaded them in 1925 and stayed until 1945, the end of World War II.

Just to be clear: these feelings about Japan are a core truth of North Korea. They shape the country in ways that we cannot fathom. They most definitely account for the success of Kim Il Song in imposing his power (he posed himself as the great savior of the Korean people against the Japanese invader, whom he repelled almost single-handedly right from the beginning of his engagement as a patriot rebel).

This picture shows the very first monument for which we stop in Pyongyang. It is the Arch of Triumph, showing the pride and joy of Korea having liberated itself from Japan in 1945. We’ll stop at this building several times over the next few days, as the government wants to make especially sure that the tourists get good pictures of it.