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Though winter encroaches, our hearts are warmed by an eternal spring! - click opera
February 2010
 
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Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 12:00 am
Though winter encroaches, our hearts are warmed by an eternal spring!

Although wintry cold has begun chilling our bodies here in Berlin, our hearts are warm this week thanks to... well, thanks to the eternally-blossoming pink flowers and ever-smiling women's faces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea!



The Asian Women's Film Festival opens in Berlin tomorrow, and Hisae and I will be interleaving its offerings at the Arsenal cinema -- which include a whole section dedicated to classic North Korean films -- with the Tokio-Shibuya season going on at the HAU theatres in Kreuzberg. On several evenings in the course of the next week we'll be shuttling from one to the other, braving lashing wind and rain, but warmed in our hearts by films like The Flower Girl, based on an opera written by Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader, himself.

Here's a song from the film:



As I mentioned in my 7 lies about North Korea piece a couple of years back (a discussion of Christian Kracht and Eva Munz's "coffee table book" of photographs of the DPRK), Germany and Korea -- and specifically the former East Germany and North Korea -- have quite a bit in common. They share an immoderate love for flowers, for standardized folk costumes, and for tightly-choreographed, stirring, collectively-voiced, totally non-funky songs filmed on spectacular mountainsides.



The curator of the Asian Women's Film Festival, Sun-ju Choi, has also helped put together an exhibition currently showing at NGBK in Kreuzberg (and my favourite Berlin art gallery, as it happens, partly because it's an artists' collective). Shared.Divided.United points out more similarities between Germany and Korea: "The two countries were both front-line states in the Cold War – and are at the same time both marked by a history of division. The manifold migration routes between Korea and Germany were characterized by complex inter-relationships and trans-border, frontier-extending activities, which are here for the first time studied against the backdrop of the Cold War. Koreans went as guest workers from South Korea to West Germany (FRG), and as students and orphans from North Korea to East Germany (GDR); East Germans went to North Korea in the overall framework of ‘developmental aid solidarity’; South Koreans in West Germany went in turn to North Korea, and North Koreans in East Germany fled to West Germany."



Works by contemporary artists like Suntag Noh (responsible for the reappropriated North Korean crowd scenes seen here) are displayed alongside historical material at NGBK. There are lots of other Asian nations -- and women directors -- represented at the Asian Women's Film Festival (the film which kicks it off is actually Malaysian), but it's the North Korean films which I expect to enjoy the most, for their otherness, their beyond-the-paleness, their beauty and resolute positivity.

A Bellflower, for instance, hymns the importance of "loyalty, solidarity and commitment to the country" and contains "exhortations to put the common good above personal ambition... a recurrent theme of North Korean society guided by the “Juche” principle of self-reliance."



Let's end with Let's Defend Socialism, a song "from the early 90s about the Korean people's resolve to defend socialism". According to YouTube user DPRKradio, "this song was released shortly after the betrayal of socialism in the former Soviet Union by the traitor Gorbachev."

Like the music, the comments beneath it are harmonious; refreshingly free of the usual OMFG WTF LOL kneejerk Web 2.0 cynicism, this video has inspired YouTube users the world over (but all on the same day) to lift their voices as one and proclaim: "The Democratic People´s Republic of Korea is raising the banner of socialism to new heights in the 21st century under the Songun leadership of KIM JONG IL" and "long live ALL OF THE PEOPLE OF DPRK, HER LEADER KIM JONG II, AND THE BEAUTIFUL VALUES, TRADITIONS  AND CELEBRATION OF LIFE, OF HER PEOPLE"!

56CommentReplyShare


(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)

lemme guess. the rest of your entries until you shiver away and die are goign to be about young asian chicks. oh momus you're ever so predicable.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)

Please learn to read and spell, decadent running-dog lackey of the Web 2.0 sarco-capitalist imperial system! This entry is not about "young asian chicks" but about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, its people, their hope, and the blossoming of worldwide socialism, a light in the darkest winter!


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
someone's drank the kool-aid

how about those inside the dprk who dare to speak out against the oppressive regime there? what do you think of them and their being hauled off never to be heard of again? or the millions living in hunger and poverty? don't you care about them?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
Re: someone's drank the kool-aid

Ah yes, dissidents and victims and millions living in hunger and poverty. These are the very reasons that communism had to be invented. It is certainly not perfect yet, but it is young.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
HTMhelL

about to find out if i've just lost my embedding virginity:



nathan


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
Re: HTMhelL

hahaha... nope!

so:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNCujB5tJnQ


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HymenTML - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)

What a wonderful, interesting entry! It's too bad I'll be in Berlin only next week, and precisely after the 20th, so I will definitely miss the Asian Women's Film festival. That's not too bad, though, since I already scribbled down (well, I took screenshots) of the movies they mention on their website. Good pointers for a few weeks rich in pirated movies.

Curiously, the first thing that sprung to mind (right after being amazed a long-time president/dictator would write operas) was that the singsang in the embedded Youtube video reminded me a lot of old DEFA movies, especially fairy tales. The classic singing in a lot of old DDR films has a striking similarity to what Kim Jong Il wrote. Perhaps not by accidence.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 12:10 am (UTC)
The Flower Video

I find that flower video rather disturbing given the context in which it was made. A substrate of shit out of which innocent youth is exploited and nature's beauty flaunted. There are bodies buried beneath those flowers.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 03:00 am (UTC)
Kim Jong II: the new Kahimi muse?

How about a duet CD with Kim Jong II, which might pave the way for a unified Korea!

You could strum a Bipa, while "Dear Father" croons his favorite song "Not Motherhood Without You" or teach him "I Am A Kitten" while riding in his armored train, watching pretty girls make pretty things.


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milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
shy

so I'm going to try an bust my html virginity as well tonight...


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 07:34 am (UTC)
Re: shy

now i know what hitchens means when he refers to heaven as a "celestial north korea."

the piety is hilariously pitiful.


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amore_di_libri
amore_di_libri
amore_di_libri
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 06:25 am (UTC)

I was visiting family in Seoul, and we decided to skip over to Beijing to try out a North Korean restaurant there. It is with great pride in the Korean people that I can report that all of our (female) servers had truly servile mannerisms and the limpid grace of wilting pear blossoms. Also, no one had any pores. Literally, no pores. I believe the generals who generally like to engage the lascivious services of the lovely ladies of the DPRK had pores banned a few years back.

We can only hope that the next glorious leader (who was undoubtedly born on a gleaming mountaintop, from a beauteous virgin, raised by chipmunks, and taught to lead by the great Holanghee in the Sky) will also understand how important it is to preserve the true Korean culture at the expense of, well, providing physical sustenance for one's Korean brethren. Truly, "glory for the beautiful values, traditions and celebrations of life, of her people." At the expense of her people.


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endoftheseason
endoftheseason
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 06:26 am (UTC)
Momus, is that you?

In all your shiny, happy, flowers-in-bloom-kissing, strictly-enforced-communal-ways-loving glory?:

http://www.bertisevil.tv/pages/bert029.htm


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thomascott
thomascott
Thomas Scott
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 07:33 am (UTC)

Delightful, let us frolic in Kim ll Sung's bounteous talents as a writer, ideologue, composer, flower-arranger and genocidal murderer.
ALL HAIL THE GREAT LEADER.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)
hmmm

i wonder what momus will think if and when that fat slob lobs one of his substitute penises (missles) into a city full of people in japan. all this schmaltz wouldn't be so cute then, now would it...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 07:55 am (UTC)

I have been called upon to make a statement regarding the DPRK's problems and even to answer allegations of "genocide" leveled against the nation's leader, Kim Jong Il.

My statement is this. Certainly my entry is propaganda. But the OMG WTF Web 2.0 requirement to cast the DPRK, every time you mention it, as part of an "empire of evil" is also propaganda. It's rather like harassing people reviewing American films into making clear their views on Hiroshima, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the percentage of black Americans in prison. It inculcates the idea that an American film or record could not be reviewed responsibly without mention of these things.

In my Book of Scotlands I include a text parodying this idea. It's a review of a New Age folk album by a band called Sonic Flower Groove. The reviewer docks a star from his review because the band fails to make clear its position, in the course of the record, on the widespread Scottish practice of genital cutting.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 08:07 am (UTC)

I would add that a hallmark of the double standard I am criticizing here is a focus on things that might happen, even while passing over things that objectively have happened. And so the OMG WTF Web 2.0 style is to ignore the fact that the US has invaded two nations this decade while the DPRK has invaded none, and to talk about the possibility that it might at some point shoot missiles at Japan. This possibility is to be entertained with the same urgency as the possibility that Europe might at some point be overrun by muslims. OMG WTF!


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might vs. have - (Anonymous) Expand
mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 09:10 am (UTC)

I could probably handle living in East Germany (it'd be a bit like the CCTV & ASBO-riddled northern English town I currently live in, only with jobs), but I imagine the DPRK to be hell on earth.

What I find interesting is what partition does to the other side. When half of a country becomes Stalinist, it naturally affects how the other half operates. Partition left West Germany with a near-unassailable Christian Democrat majority in government, and the BRD police were given unusually far-reaching powers for a 'free' country, especially regarding the policing of dissent. In South Korea, a country which won the Olympic games while still a military dictatorship, an academic was arrested recently for *criticising* capitalism.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 09:34 am (UTC)

I think it's interesting to look at the video of arena mass signing Nathan posted upthread. The only reason you can tell it's South Korean rather than North Korean is via the tinny western-style pop music on the soundtrack and the 90s-trendy lozenge spectacle frames the students are wearing (North Korea tends to have a style repertoire that extends, in Western terms, from the 50s to the late 70s -- witness the antique synth sounds in the music clips I posted).

My aesthetic preference for North Korea over South Korea is unavoidable, and not just because I like communist kitsch. In terms of ostranenie and otherness, North Korea clearly wins. It also wins in terms of the anxious interval. South Korea is just advanced and capitalist-consumerist enough to show me styles and forms I can find five to ten years into our own past, or in provincial university towns in my homeland. It's cool enough, in other words, to be embarrassingly uncool and similar enough to be dismissed in the spirit of "been there, done that". North Korea, though, as one of the last functioning communist states, has to be on the cultural endangered species list. It has to be a valuable "lost world of otherness", an exception to the monoculture which is, I believe, the biggest threat to humanity. That's why North Korea fascinates people who write books and program film festivals, and why the "aggressive normality" which so predictably demands condemnation of the DPRK is something I resist.

I would say, though, that I'm very much against the politics of Songun and Juche. Putting guns before butter is not a wise policy. You should feed your people rather than glorify your leaders. Communism should not demand self-sufficiency, either, but provide for people. And in terms of Gini ratios, the DPRK must have one of the highest rates in the world: one person disposes of almost the entire national wealth. There, that's my ringing condemnation. Now, go and see the films!


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 09:44 am (UTC)



what are those silly guys think they are doing?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)

A crappy, derivative South Korean boy band trying to undermine North Korea! Seriously, kick them out! Build that wall higher! This is what cultural barriers are all about.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)

According to today's Libé, North Korea wants to sign a peace treaty that will mark the official end of a war which actually ceased more than 25 years ago. As in their synth sounds, so in their politics, it seems!


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krskrft
krskrft
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)

Looks like they're running out of cash. Time to "make nice" so they can receive another infusion from South Korea. That's something people don't really seem to understand about the diplomatic relationship between the North and the South. It's cyclical. When North Korea needs money, they're all about peace and unification. And when they're flush, it's all underground nuclear tests and firing off missiles.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)

Momus, in the 90s you were very much a pro-technology futurist sort. Lately you have turned conservative, shunning web blogging and laptop pop for physical books, wabi sabi, recycled furniture, and "primitive" traditional/workers clothing.

But, with projected exponential advances in computing power 20 years from now, we should not only be able to once and for all deal with pesky things like illness, but have some sort of 100% immersive virtual reality technology that will allow everyone to live in their ideal communist paradise. Are you looking forward to this eventuality?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC)

shunning web blogging and laptop pop

I've shunned them to death! I'm staying away from VR communism in case I do the same for that.


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lazy_leoboiko
lazy_leoboiko
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)

Watching those perfectly chaste women from North Korea’s «window in the past» instantly developed in me an immensurable thirst for North Korean porn.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)

I think I've heard that Tony Blair regretted announcing a date in the future when he would stand down, because it sapped his power. Lots of people paid less attention to his Journal entries (despite the ones after the announcement being some of the best ever), and he had a harder time getting bills through Parliament.

Maybe you need to appoint some whips, Momus?


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)

kind of sad for the N.Korea talented guys who waste their lives hymning the DL

recently came across D.Kabalevsky, who seems to have similarly wasted his talent during Soviet times


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)

a) It's kind of cool -- there are Berlin stores like OK Versand that try for this "lo-fi plastic goods" thing but don't succeed on quite that scale.

b) It also reminds me of my own visits to East Berlin department stores in 1987.

c) Or the weird old department store in St Anne de Bellevue, Montreal, in 1975, with a compressed air cash transport system that ran on wires across the ceiling.

d) Or, you know, BHS in Tollcross in 1980.

e) All department stores all over the world share a kind of pathos. They present essentially shabby things -- clothes, plastic sunglasses -- as if they were luxuries. That goes for Harvey Nicks too; there's always some sort of idiotic cargo cult thing going on just below the surface.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)

I must say, just about every Twitter tweet I ever see prompts the thought "What would the revolutionary martyrs say if they were still alive?"


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endoftheseason
endoftheseason
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
Life in the World of OMG WTF Web 2.0

Straight from OMG WTF Web 2.0 itself comes this insightful comment:

"Critics such as Andrew Keen argue that Web 2.0 has created a cult of digital narcissism and amateurism, which undermines the notion of expertise by allowing anybody, anywhere to share (and place undue value upon) their own opinions about any subject and post any kind of content regardless of their particular talents, knowledgeability, credentials, biases or possible hidden agendas. He states that the core assumption of Web 2.0, that all opinions and user-generated content are equally valuable and relevant is misguided, and is instead 'creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity: uninformed political commentary, unseemly home videos, embarrassingly amateurish music, unreadable poems, essays and novels,' also stating that Wikipedia is full of 'mistakes, half truths and misunderstandings'."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0#Characteristics

One important, defining feature of the knee-jerk cynicism of OMG WTF Web 2.0 that this comment does not mention explicitly, but which is clearly covered by the categories it does mention, is the solemn dictum issued by OMG-WTF-ers that one must attempt to deflect all criticism of or potentially critical questions about nations, peoples, systems, cultures, etc. other than the US or those things taken to be epitomized by the US by pointing out that the US or that which it is taken to epitomize has done or was purported to have done this or that supposedly bad thing. Furthermore, it is to be understood in the realms of OMG WTF Web 2.0 that not only do such attempts at deflection constitute more than sufficient exoneration of any nation, people, system, culture, etc. other than the US or those things taken to be epitomized by the US that might come under scrutiny for any reason whatsoever. They also constitute unassailable grounds for celebrating and holding up as a model any nation, people, system, culture, etc. other than the US or that which the US is taken to epitomize.


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internought
internought
denial o'niall
Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Life in the World of OMG WTF Web 2.0

There's nothing specifically "Web 2.0" about reverse ethnocentrism. It's been around for a while now.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 16th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
korean babes

you ever have a thing for black chicks? dark ones? gotta put the fetishes on rotation to keep them all fresh ya know?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 16th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)
Re: korean babes

What are these "chicks" of which you speak?


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