It’s really hard blogging on North Korea: reality outstrips any attempt at satire. But even with that knowledge, the Calvinist inside of me is impelled to put my shoulder to the wheel, serene in the certitude that it will all end in tears. Swift be damned, here goes.
First up, Matthew Todd Miller. When I coined the term dystopian tourism, little did I know that someone would actually take me up on it, intentionally getting arrested so that he could know the real North Korea. While I cannot endorse the method, I do appreciate the impulse. Which got me to thinking (I know, a dangerous thing). How about Rawlsian tourism? Here’s how it would work: one of these visit-the-DPRK outfits like Koryo Tours could put together a delegation of visitors. Then you draw straws to see what kind of tour you get:
- The Kim Jong-un package features his legendary “7-star lifestyle” complete with visits to fun parks and unlimited supplies of Viagra, cognac and exotic Swiss cheeses. Note: performances by the Moranbong Band and other entertainers are scheduled regularly, but participation by the Pleasure Squad must be contracted separately. Please understand that only one tourist per delegation gets to play Kim Jong-un for a day.
- The Pyongyang apparatchik package includes visits to hard currency restaurants and exposure to North Korean electronic gadgetry.
- The midlevel wage-slave package breaks you out of the gilded cage of Pyongyang. Visiting a provincial city, you get to stay in the home of a typical white-collar worker trying to get by. Rest assured, you are not expected to contribute financially to the children’s education.
- On the Hamgyong down-and-out package you bunk with a rust belt semi-employed SOE worker and his (it’s a “he”—the women were shed years ago) family. If you’re adroit he may even actually ask you to pitch in on his side hustle, and if you are an appropriately aged female, you may even get invited to hawk some goods with his wife! This is the real North Korea that Mr. Miller was so desperately seeking!
- The Gulag guard package allows you –yes, you!—to be a kwaliso guard for a day! The food is lousy but you get to exercise virtually total control over other human beings (nudge nudge, wink wink), a mix of actual prisoners and your unfortunate tour-mates who drew the…
- Kwaliso prisoner package. Yes, you are a kwaliso prisoner! With the kwaliso prisoner option you get to scavenge for food and are beaten regularly! And the amazing thing about this option is that unlike the other packages which are time delimited, the kwaliso prisoner package comes with no fixed termination date! Just think: you could be on tour for the rest of your life!
I should probably copyright this idea before Uri Tours puts it into action.
Next up, those wild and crazy guys from the Korean Workers Party whose human rights report brought so much mirth at a time when the weather was turning colder and leaves were beginning to fall. Whether it was labeling President Park a “whore,” President Obama “a cross-breed of unclear blood,” who “has the figure of a monkey while the human race has evolved through millions of years,” or Justice Michael Kirby “a disgusting old lecher with a 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality” they, perhaps unintentionally, kept an otherwise boring job interesting. Boys, let’s keep that invective flowing in 2015!
And last but not least: Dennis Rodman! Astonishingly, despite his most deranged efforts, the Worm has never made the Turkey Shoot. But this past year from his birthday serenade of Kim Jong-un, conjuring up Marilyn Monroe’s birthday salute to JFK (wonder how Worm would look in that dress?), to his pre-rehab offer to swap places with Kenneth Bae, Ambassador R managed to demonstrate that F. Scott Fitzgerald had it wrong: there truly are second (and third! and fourth!) acts in American lives.
To all our 2014 Turkeys, we salute you!