The Patriot is a composite character crafted from a quarter century experience interacting with North Koreans. As will be obvious to all Koreans, the Patriot’s name, Pak Kim Li, is also fictional: a combination of the three most popular family names in Korea.
Before delving into the series of “Conversations with the Patriot”, readers would be well advised to read “Portrait of a Patriot”, which gives a personal history of Pak Kim Li’s life and times and sets the stage for the interviews that follow.
Read ”Recognizing the human behind the ideology“, a commentary on “Portrait of a Patriot” by Col. Jargalsaikhan Mendee, graduate student from Mongolia at UBC and former Defense Attaché in Washington DC.
Probing the North Korean Mind
|DPRK propaganda attributes all decisions great and small to the country’s leaders, “great” and “dear”. North Korea watchers who obsess about the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the country’s “supreme leader” seem to accept this myth of one-man rule. In the real world, however, no individual can single-handedly wield absolute power without significant assistance from military, economic and intellectual elites who benefit from the dictatorship and therefore keep the system intact.If the Korean conundrum is ever to be resolved by peaceful means, it will be necessary to get into the mind not only of Kim Jong Il, but also the ruling elite, whose worldview and motivations need to be understood before productive dialogue is even possible.||“Just brilliant! You have hit the nail on the head!” David Morton, former United Nations Coordinator in Pyongyang, Country Director of the UN World Food Programme|
|Unfortunately, outsiders have little access to North Korean people, let alone finding out what makes them tick. DPR Korean officials authorized to deal with foreigners (who are therefore more accessible) are trained to keep hidden what goes on inside their heads. Their explanations of DPRK policies are often couched in language better suited to please North Korean censors than to enlighten foreign curiosity.On the assumption that it sometimes takes fiction to illuminate reality, CanKor editor Erich Weingartner has constructed a fictional “patriot” whose story searches for human meaning under the veil of the party line. The Patriot, a member of the North Korea’s elite, answers questions in language more easily understood outside of the DPRK. The Patriot is a composite character crafted from a quarter century experience interacting with North Koreans.||“That story about Pak Kim Li is brilliant.” Ruediger Frank, Professor of East Asian Political Economy, University of Vienna|
Erich Weingartner is uniquely qualified to tell the Patriot’s story. He visited Korea on many occasions since 1978, with his first visit to North Korea in 1985. A year later he convened the first official encounter since the Korean War between non-governmental delegations of both Koreas. Thereafter he organized three more international conferences bringing together both South and North Korean delegations. From 1997 to 1999 he headed the Food Aid Liaison Unit of the United Nations World Food Programme in Pyongyang. In that capacity he traveled all provinces of North Korea, visiting ports, rail yards, warehouses, nurseries, kindergartens, boarding schools, orphanages, hospitals, factories, farms and many families in their homes, both in rural and urban settings. Thereafter he continued to visit North Korea on a more or less regular basis as a humanitarian consultant.
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