The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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North Korea forum on religion, politics and nuclear weapons

Several guest speakers’ discussed the religion and politics associated with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s secretive regime at a forum hosted by the religious studies department on May 4 in the Whitsett Room at Sierra Hall.

The forum titled, Eyes on Korea, was organized by Dr. Kenneth Lee, assistant professor of religious studies. The major world religion of Juche, which is the only government-authority ideology in North Korea was discussed. The forum also delved into the general lack of trust between North Korea and the United States.

Current events regarding the secluded nation, and their quest for nuclear weapons, prompted the event, Lee said.

Dr. Johann D. Kim was also on hand to first discuss how Juche, the official philosophy promulgated by the country’s government and educational system, could be considered more than a way of life, but a bona fide religion. Kim made parallels between Juche, Christianity and Gnosticism.

Kim ll-sung, the deceased father of current leader Jong-il, introduced Juche, according to Kim, to North Korea in the 1950s.

Kim then went on to play a video clip of the nations heartrending reaction to Kim ll-sung’s 1994 death. The video showed thousands of people wailing and crying as if someone very close to them had died. It was reported that many died of excessive weeping and devastation. Kim claimed that to the western world it is almost incomprehensible as to why, but he argued that it is similar to religious behavior.

Kim said that the ideology of Juche, places Kim ll-sung as God, and Kim Jong-il as the Son of God. He compared Juche centers all over North Korea, to churches, where people go to program their minds and hear lectures and discussions. The meetings usually begin and end with praise songs for Kim ll-sung – and Kim Jong-il – similar to hymns and praise songs sung in churches in other nations.

Kim also pointed out that Christianity and Juche use similar terminology. Words like grace, faith, love, repentance and eternal life are used regularly – although the meanings are different. He said that the writings of Kim ll-sung could also be compared to the often-encouraging words of the Holy Bible.

Kim also said that although many people are starving to death in North Korea, they see it as simply “suffering for the truth.”

By comparing Juche to Christianity or Gnosticism, Kim hopes to help the western world better understand the North Koreans, and perhaps one day open up a dialogue.

Next, Dr. Dae-sook Suh spoke about why there is not any trust between the United States and North Korea.

Instead of focusing on why the U.S. does not trust North Korea, Dr. Dae-sook Suh turned the tables and in turn discussed why North Korea does not trust us. He pointed out that long before President Bush called North Korea one of the nations in the Axis of Evil that oriental people have been calling westerners evil because of their “search for domination and wealth.”

He said that North Korean’s distrust of the U.S. stems from when General Sherman invaded Korea in 1866.

He also argued that there is no reason for the U.S. to be wary about North Korea’s nuclear weapons. He pointed out that it was it was the U.S. who invented nuclear weapons, and it was also the U.S. who first used them. He said that at this point, North Korea desires nuclear weapons for defense.

Respondent Dr. Jung-Sun Park agreed with Dr. Dae-sook Suh, and asked him a couple questions. One question posed was if North Korea would ever open up to globalization. Dr. Dae-sook Suh answered that North Korea would never accept globalization at the risk of their regime survival.

Later Rev. Bill Song from First Presbyterian Church of Torrance asked the speakers if there is a possible way to restore trust with North Korea. Kim answered by saying that our position should be humble, and that this should be the place in which the western world starts.

The event also featured musician Young Ae Ma, a member of Citizen’s Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees.

Ma provided an intimate view of the suffering in North Korea, and how she was able to escape the harsh conditions.

She worked in intelligent services for North Korea and was sent as a spy to China for 12 years. During her time in China, she was able to escape to South Korea. She said that thousands of people were trying to escape and she eventually helped many of the refugees.

Ma has been a musician since she was 6-years-old, and she brought an ancient instrument called a Yang-Jum to the meeting. She was able to play two songs for the audience that provided another dimension to North Korea.

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