Lifestyle & Belief

How North Koreans get their laughs


A North Korean child perform in a primary school on April 2, 2011 in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.


Feng Li

Like any good Communist nation, North Korea is rife with stilted slogans and propaganda involving farm imagery.

A phrase like “What the Party decides, we do” — coined in the mid-1980s — is clearly intended to instill a sense of loyalty in the Workers' Party of Korea.

But given the increasingly dire economic situation in North Korea, people are losing faith in Kim Jong Il. And they are expressing their cynicism through reinterpretations of government slogans, reports the Daily NK.

A phrase like, "What the Party decides, we do" has come to justify in people's minds the corruption and wrongdoing on the part of the Party. And, as such, has given rise to the sarcastic quip: “If you are doing it, surely it is something anyone can do?”

The Daily NK reports that the slogan, “The collective farm field is my vegetable garden" (1987) is another good example.

"Originally, by alluding to the collective farm as being public property, this saying dressed labor up as an act leading to personal benefit and encouraged solidarity. However, as rations failed, workers stole grains from farms under the aegis of that very slogan, because after all, 'Since this is my farm, my taking from it is not theft.'"

By spinning Party slogans, North Koreans also show their sense of humor.

Here's a few more choice transformations:

“Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are a great sun for the people,” has been turned into “They are indeed the sun; if you go too close you burn to death and freeze if you go too far away.”

“Let's live in our own way,” (1998) is used as, “In the Party, we live well for ourselves no matter what you say.”

“Though the road ahead may be perilous, let’s travel it laughing,” (1998) has been changed to, “Let them laugh as they go, why are they making us go along?” and “[Life] is no laughing matter, so how are we supposed to laugh?”