France, a North Korean view
As a French passport holder, I had the impression at times that North Koreans feel a sort of “if-we’re-going-to-be-closer-to-someone-out-there-in-the-west-it-could-be-France-kind-of closeness”.
Ok, that’s a lot of gouging in a statement, but that’s the only way I can come out with it.
And maybe it’s just that I met several French-speaking North Koreans. North Koreans, let’s restate, feel close to Russia; and Russia, let’s remember from our past Russia series on Hagaloo, felt close to France around the turn of the past century. Many, many French artists, artisans, writers, nannies, etc. made the trek to Russia under the Czars, and the language of the noble and the smart was French. This is the French that North Koreans have learnt. Today’s North Korean French-speaking people studied from books that might have been written in 1900 or 1920 at best. Mr Lee, who has been speaking French for over 30 years, told me that once, a lecturer came from France to Pyongyang for a week to give talks at the University, and Mr Lee attended all of them. He was young then. Other than that, French is learnt from French books and maybe from a few Berlitz-type series of tapes that they’ve managed to get.
Nevertheless, among these people at least, but also among quite a few more than the French-speaking North Koreans, I believe there is, on a basic level, a sort of kinship.
I am aware of 3 distinct occurrences showing this basic connection:
(1) Kim Jung-Il likes French wines and Cognac
(2) When he had a heart attack a French cardiologist came to Pyongyang to help him
(3) A niece of his committed suicide in Paris about 10 years ago when she was asked to come back to North Korea for good
Ok. I said it. The French connection needed to be established at some point in these ramblings.