Propaganda: North Korea is a “Socialist Fairyland” and Expat Life is Glamorous!

North Korea: Kim Jong Un's "Socialist Fairyland"

If censorship is a blunt tool used to sway public opinion, propaganda is its softer twin. As a long time watcher of North Korea’s (unintentionally) highly entertaining Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK (KCNA), I was treated to a hearty laugh in early April.

The KCNA’s news typically focuses on: commemorative wreath-laying events for Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Sun; inflammatory bashing of the United States, South Korea and Japan; and, of course, on delusions about North Korea’s grandeur.

On April 8th, 2013 (or Juche 102 using the North Korean calendar), a particularly amusing story popped up about Kim Jong Un’s determination to:

 “turn the beautiful country … into a splendid and highly civilized socialist fairyland and socialist land of bliss where the people’s ideals becomes a reality and they enjoy happiness.”

A completely insane aspiration and skewed view of North Korea’s potential given its present state of affairs. A “socialist fairyland” where millions of people do not have enough to eat…

Pondering Kim Jong Un’s delusions of grandeur, I am reminded of my own tendency to sanitize my expat experiences through selective Facebook propaganda. Viewed generously, expat life is full of travel, new experiences, foreign friends and funny anecdotes involving miscommunication with ‘the locals.’ I, for one, often leave out the true (and unfunny) negatives when talking about my own life abroad.

Here is a possible Facebook post of my own from May 2008, but with the negative subtext added:

Expat (me) on Great Wall Run

Three months after this picture of me was taken, our daughter was twice hospitalized and we finally figured out why she was so ill: celiac disease. This discovery came after months of being told by her pediatrician overseas that she simply had one stomach illness after another and that it was all nothing to worry about. An American pediatrician finally figured it all out when we were on “home leave.”

One year after this picture was taken and after months of alternately thinking that we might move to Singapore/Hong Kong/Eindhoven/Seattle, we moved from China to Cambridge, England. Our expat life, despite what many might think, is not a case of being asked by “the company” to move to a new place. No, it is more a matter of my husband looking for a new job within his global company every two years.

I had been consumed with worry about both of these topics for months. Until it was all settled, however, I never shared a peep of true concern with anyone other than very, very close family.

Fortunately, unlike Kim Jong Un’s, my propaganda does not impair the lives of millions of people.


8 responses to “Propaganda: North Korea is a “Socialist Fairyland” and Expat Life is Glamorous!

  1. Thanks for bringing this up and for being so honest. I think all of us edit and sanitize to an extent what we present on our social networks and blogs, which is why the keyboard (and the delete button) are so different from face-to-face interactions, we get to edit what we present.

    Your post reminded me about this talk from Sherry Turkle, which you might have already seen or read about:

    • Just watched it. One quick reaction: is blogging a way “to feel intimacy without the demands of friendship”?

      Completely agree that some people get too fully pulled into their devices: (1) I have lovely real world friend that I’d like to snatch a phone from on an almost daily basis; and (2) I’ve had to talk to my husband about keeping his phone in the other room during family meals.

      Also so true that being able to edit is one of the reasons I adore email…

  2. I completely edit or wait until I am ready to post which may be much after. Blogging and the feedback received has helped keep me sane over the last couple of years.

    • Here, here to the value of blogging and interactions with the blogging community! I’ve also found it to be a real help as an expat.

      I’m probably more honest on this blog than on Facebook though… And here I edit out lots of personal stuff. Privacy is good, but it does create a distorted picture of one’s life over time.

  3. Pingback: Weekend Chat 21 April 2013 | Ain't Mine No More·

  4. YES. THIS.

    I have been lately annoyed with the multitude of “life is so wonderful” posts, but at the same time annoyed at my own negativity.

    A true representation of our experience is quite tricky.

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