The Great Vituperator

A sadly funny excerpt from Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea:

Mi-ran’s mother later told her that four of her father’s buddies in the mines, fellow South Koreans, had been executed for minor infractions, their bodies dumped in mass graves. Being a member of the hostile class meant you would never get the benefit of the doubt. A sarcastic inflection when referring to Kim Il-sung or a nostalgic remark about South Korea could get you in serious trouble. It was especially taboo to talk about the Korean War and who started it. In the official histories (and there was nothing but official history in North Korea), it was the South Korean Army that invaded, acting on orders from the Americans, not the North Korean Army storming across the 38th parallel. “The U.S. imperialists gave the Syngman Rhee puppet clique an order to unleash a Korean War,” goes the account in Rodong Sinmun [the official DPRK newspaper]. Anybody who remembered what really happened on June 25, 1950 (and which Korean could forget?), knew it was wise to keep one’s mouth shut.

I felt sad several times as I read this book and saw parallels between North Korean “puppet clique” bombast and the kinds of arguments that some conservative Christians have employed. There’s a certain turn of mind which is given to this kind of invective; apparently it’s a human universal. The Korean Central News Agency has been nicknamed the “Great Vituperator,” but I know some Islamists and some professing Christians who went to the same school of rhetoric.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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