Don’t get me wrong, I know the power of lapel pins. I know that they can inspire, incite action, comfort, or amuse. But in North Korea, lapel pins are more than a way to personalize an outfit or reflect a cause: they’re mandatory. That’s correct. Every adult citizen of North Korea is required to wear a pin bearing the image of Kim Jung Il or his father, Kim Il Sung.
And so, when a bag containing about 200 pins bearing the image of the late dictator, Jung Il, were found near the DMZ inside the border of South Korea, it was not assumed that they were set down by accident and left. It appears that this deposit of North Korean propaganda is just another in a long string of antagonizing tactics used to push one side or the other and instigate war.
Police have the pins in custody (I love how that sounds!) and they’re investigating how they got into the country. If they do find an individual in South Korea responsible for the pins, that person could face up to seven years in jail. For pins! But for years, both sides have devised ways of sending propaganda to each other. Though in the case of South Korea, their propaganda sometimes came in the form of basic necessities like food and even socks. North Korea’s impoverished citizenry is the focus of concern for humanitarian organizations in South Korea. Their efforts to send supplies to North Korea are often responded to with threats for military or nuclear action, and so the South Korean government does its best to prevent such humanitarian aid from being sent in the first place.
Recently though, South Korea has been blasting K-Pop (think the Asian version of the Backstreet Boys) and anti-North Korea broadcasts across the border, with North Korea sending back similar broadcasts and floating balloons with dictatorial propaganda pamphlets back over into South Korea. I openly admit it sounds insane.
The reality of the situation in North Korea is obviously very serious, and their threats are not to be taken lightly. But I cannot help but be both amused and impressed that lapel pins are enough to start country-wide investigations and that retaliation might be blaring the Korean Justin Timberlake back over the border to the North.