Meeting Kim II Sung#

Anders Jeffner#

"In the seventies I did some research on political ideologies that have functions similar to those of religion. I studied especially the many revisions of Marxism. A group of North Korean philosophers happened to visit Uppsala and I had a discussion with them on the Juche ideology of Kim II Sung (that often is labelled Marxism). This resulted in an invitation to visit their country and take part in a series of seminars in Pyongyang. My wife is a professor of sociology and she was interested in getting a glimpse of this enigmatic society so we went together and spent a couple of weeks at the official guest house in the North Korean capital.

Of course, it was a shaking experience to live in such an extremely closed and authoritarian society, to meet the Great Leader and to witness the serious veneration for him among all kind of people. I got numerous examples of similarities between the official political mythology and a religious doctrine.

Being in the country you can also notice the kinship between the Juche ideology and traditional Confucianism. However, the most important experience for us was that in the middle of this strange society and among a horde of academic politicians we could meet scholars who had a real analytical and critical attitude to their material and who talked and argued in a way that made us feel at home. One social scientist, for example, was an expert on Parsons sociology.

It might also be worth telling an odd adventure. Towards the end of our visit we were invited to see the university museum. An English speaking guide led us through the rooms towards the central hall, were we were looking forward to see the most important item of the collection. Our guide said in a sacral tone that we should have the honour to get a look on a gift to the museum from the Great Leader himself. We tried to enter the room in a pious mood. To our shocking great surprise the object appeared to be an enormous stuffed pig being enthroned in the middle of the hall. We were absolute sure that laughter had been seen as a mortal sin in this situation. I myself took shelter behind a pillar, but my wife was standing close to the guide. She did her best to stifle her laughter and by the effort she got tears in her eyes. It was interpreted that she was weeping in deep veneration, and our status in the society was highly increased. We got an invitation to a second visit in the country.

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