High stakes and a climate of fear drive the country’s politicians to seek unconventional help
In what can be perceived as adding insult to injury by Kim Jong Un’s regime, an odd trend grows among the upper echelons of North Korea’s government. After months of insecurity and growing discontent, many top North Korean officers are now seeking a way out – and turning to supernatural advice in order to increase their chances of success.
The Ghosts The Regime Keeps Trying To Bury
Traditionally, Korean culture and religious fervor have always relied on ghosts and the spirits of people’s ancestors as protective entities. Fortune telling also has a long standing history and deeply rooted traditions in the region, which have survived decades of government persecution.
The government’s official position on religion and spirituality is to consider them “reactionary” and “damaging to society”. Those caught engaging in these “superstitious practices,” according to Penal code 256, can face up to three year’s imprisonment in a labor camp. Despite the government’s efforts, the people of North Korea never truly abandoned the practice of consulting fortune tellers to choose auspicious dates for weddings, moves or other important life events.
However, over the past few months, the wave of political purges sponsored by Kim Jong Un seems to have brought religious fervor back to the country’s elite. Kim Jong Un has shown himself quick to punish anyone who displeases or defies him, turning what used to be highly coveted positions into high-risk occupations. Many big players, frightened of the speed in which tides can turn who incur on the regime’s wrath, have come to realize that the only path to permanent safety goes through the border.
Defecting North Korea, however, has always been risky business. Since escaping South through the Demilitarized Zone is impossible, most attempt to flee through the northern border into China. Once on the other side, danger doesn’t stop: Chinese authorities are quick to deport any North Koreans back to their home country, where they can face lifetime imprisonment in one of their infamous reeducation camps.
Successfully evading North Korean snipers, Chinese police, and human traffickers all the way to the nearest South Korean embassy requires money, connections, and no small amount of luck. Over the past few months, the latest wave of refugees has sought to tip the scales further with the help of the supernatural.
Spiritual Protection Doesn’t Come Cheap
Seeing his inner circle resorting to such condemned practices may be a tough pill to swallow for Kim Jong Un, but it’s likely even harder to watch by the general public. Despite the country’s chronic famines and lack of basic services, North Korea’s ruling elite has long enjoyed great privileges and don’t shy from conspicuous luxuries.
Widespread censorship may prevent most scandals from rousing the public sentiment, but what little becomes well-known is insulting. Just a few months ago, a high standing official from Hyesan City got caught paying 500 USD to a renowned local fortune teller – an absurd amount of money in a country that often goes hungry. Other reports indicate that some of the most prestigious fortune tellers in the capital can charge up to 600,000 won (the local currency) for a consultation – which would buy 240 pounds of rice for a normal North Korean family.