North Korea’s Tears

Images of North Koreans howling with grief over Kim Jong-il's death suggest mass hysteria. Can a whole country go mad, or is life in a totalitarian dictatorship such a daily misery that its people end up crying for their oppressors?

HO CHI MINH CITY – Can an entire people go mad? Sometimes it certainly seems so.

Images of North Koreans in their hundreds of thousands howling with grief over Kim Jong-il’s death suggest something very disturbing. But what? An exercise in mass delusion? A ritual of collective masochism?

Kim was a brutal dictator, who pampered himself with the finest French brandies (allegedly $500,000 a year’s worth), fresh sushi flown in from Tokyo, and the best chefs money could buy, while millions of his subjects starved to death. Yet, here they are, masses of his bullied, downtrodden subjects loudly mourning his death as though they had lost their beloved father.