I think, comrades, you will agree with Our Man, that Chairman Mouse: A Tokyo Disneyland North Korea Fantasia marks a great leap forward in cover design for the Abiko Free Press, and punning titles, for which Our Man is indebted to editor Dan Ryan. But enough of all that. Want a free excerpt? Of course you do... here are the first 841 words of the essay...
When Joe saw the sentries, he broke out in a cold sweat.
He knew the rules. How could he not? He’d heard them repeated from loudspeakers buried in the square bushes all along the kilometre of asphalt to the checkpoint.
“Enter in an orderly fashion. All bags will be inspected.”
That last sentence was making his legs shake.
He told himself that this was just part of the game his uncles had been teaching him to play. But if it was just a game, why did they make him repeat and memorise every action until he could think of nothing else? He couldn’t even remember his own name. Weren’t games supposed to be fun?
He went over in his head for the two-hundredth time what he had to do. If anyone was to doubt his identity papers he was to shrug and say, “My name is Joe.” If that wasn’t enough he was to say “Joseph. Joseph Pak. I am eight years old.” And say nothing else. If he played this game right, he could meet up with his mother. She’d be waiting for him on the other side… if he didn’t mess this up. The thing was that the guards must not become suspicious. His life, his uncles’ lives and his mother’s depended on it.
He was nearly at the front of the queue. He turned around and looked back along the line snaking behind him over the concrete. Somewhere lost in the mass of people his older brother must be standing. He said he’d done this before. He said everything would be fine, there was nothing to it. And yet there was something not right…
“Bag please,” the sentry said.
The boy held out his Mickey Mouse backpack for him to inspect. He could have told them everything that was in it: a bottle of water, in case he got hot; a sweater, in case he got cold; a rice ball, in case he got hungry. What he couldn’t tell anyone about was the secret. Sewn in to the left back-strap was $1,000 and in the right a capsule that he was to bite into “if all else failed.”
The guard was suspicious. The boy knew it.
“J-J-Joe,” the boy blurted out. But he couldn’t stop his leg from shaking…My apologies for beginning this essay with a piece of fiction. When the latest addition to the Disney family is its $4 billion Star Wars baby, who cares for plot lines if the bottom line is so compelling? Yet, fiction can tell its own reality. The reality of what happened on May 12th, 1991, is known to only a handful of people still alive, but what we can piece together from Japanese intelligence leaked to the press is that the eight-year-old boy was Kim Jong-un, the eventual heir to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—the Kim family fantasy-land that is North Korea.
Lil’ Kim had entered Japan with his elder brother, Kim Jong-chul, on Brazilian passports. The two left a week later. They had been accompanied by ten minders. Their mother, a Japanese-born ethnic Korean dancer, Ko-Yong-hi, had entered Japan a few days later.
Their destination was Tokyo Disneyland.
What did the future Supreme Leader of North Korea make of the place? I can claim personal experience here—I have survived Space Mountain, battled Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, come through the Country Bear Jamboree and lived to tell the tale. So, take it as the word of a survivor, when I say I can be confident of one thing: Lil’ Kim absolutely, unreservedly loved Tokyo Disneyland. Why wouldn’t he?
If we erase the history that we know, North Korea’s infatuation with Disney becomes so much easier to understand. Forget for a moment the Korean Central News Agency’s ritualistic hatred of the imperialist Japan, which had annexed the country in the first half of the century, sowing a generation of resentment (and coincidentally, establishing the industrial infrastructure that kept the country going until the collapse of the communist bloc 60 years later). Forget for a moment more Walt Disney’s personal avowed anti-communism, his formation of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and naming of names to the House Un-American Activities Committee back in the good ol’ days of the 1950s. Keep the amnesia going for just a moment more to forget that the Disney Co. is praised as “America’s national baby-sitter, myth-maker and re-creator of history, the Sistine Chapel of service culture” by business writers and other, er, lapdogs of their capitalist masters. Forget all that.
Tokyo Disneyland is an aspiring despot’s wet dream.
Now, before we depart for that destination and I wow you along the way with comparatively few typos given the length of some of the sentences that you would expect of an essay with the necessary flab to distract you from the intellectual leanness of its opening premise: Disney is evil, North Korea is evil, therefore they are the same (any reasonable adult who has spent the day sober in Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t need an essay to know the place is evil) I must first offer a few disclaimers...
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