Entries in Mourning (3)


Is North Korean Mourning Over Kim Jong Il's Death Real?

Nelson Ching/Bloomberg via Getty Images(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- North Korean television has been showing stunning footage of public grieving following the death of leader Kim Jong Il, featuring groups of men and women shaking and sobbing violently, apparently inconsolable with grief.

It looks like a kind of mass hysteria, and it’s disconcerting to watch.

The images are so extraordinary that many are asking whether the grief is authentic, or faked by North Koreans forced to mourn by one of the world’s last totalitarian regimes.

“People have been taught from their earliest years to see Kim Jong Il, like his father Kim Il Sung before him, as a God-like figure,” says Mike Chinoy, senior fellow at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California and the author of Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Koean Nuclear Crisis.

“The whole system has been organized around the Kim cult -- mass worship of the leader, propaganda telling the population that everything in life comes from the benevolence of the leader,” he says.  “So it is not surprising that his death is a profound and unsettling shock to most North Koreans.”

Nor is it a surprise that the grieving seems to be a group activity, given the way society’s relationship with the state is organized through mass rallies, sports events and dances.  Add to the mix that Koreans are on the whole deeply emotional, with a strong custom of “public lamentation” at family funerals.

Yet North Koreans have little choice but to join in the highly-choreographed propaganda.

“The North Koreans know that it is in their own interest to be perceived as being emotionally distraught about the death of Kim Jong Il, and so they do what is expected of them,” says Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.  “Their own, natural emotionalism makes it easier for them to perform.”

A North Korean defector and former official has described the chilling scrutiny of people’s response to the death of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il’s father and the founder of North Korea, in 1994.

“The party conducted surveys to see who displayed the most grief, and made this an important criterion in assessing party members’ loyalty,” wrote the late Hwang Jang Yop.  “Patients who remained in hospitals and people who drank and made merry even after hearing news of their leader’s death were all singled out for punishment.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Moscow Mourning Airport Bombing Victims

Photo Courtesy - ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Wednesday was a day of mourning in Moscow in honor of the airport bombing victims. Thirty-five people were killed and over 100 injured by at least one suicide bomber.

At Domodedovo Airport, a makeshift memorial is growing as more flowers and candles are left.

Security has now been beefed up there with people being screened 'before' they enter the airport terminal.

There's a security reshuffle in Moscow in the wake of the bombing.

The Russian president has fired the top police chief in charge of security for the entire transportation system in the greater Moscow area. And lower down the chain, the head of transport police at Domodedovo Airport and two officers there have also been relieved of their duties.

It's the transport police that are responsible for guarding access to the specific part of the airport where the blast occurred.

No terror group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in the arrivals hall of Domodedovo airport -- a space that, like in American airports, is open to the public and not subject to security screening.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Zealand Mourns for Miners Killed in Blast

Photo Courtesy - Martin Hunter/Getty Images(GREYMOUTH, New Zealand) -- New Zealand is holding a day of mourning Thursday for the 29 miners killed in an explosion last week.

Around the country, flags hung at half-staff, churchgoers gathered at special services and lawmakers broke into a solemn hymn in parliament.

For those like Neville Rockhouse, the father of one of the missing miners, it's tough.

"It's a bad time," he says.  "And it's going to be pretty rough for a while but the families, they stick together, they come through.  And we'll come through."

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has promised some answers, saying, "The government is absolutely committed to running a commission of inquiry that will leave no stone unturned to insure that they get the answers to why their men are not coming home."

Recovery teams say it could take some time to get all the bodies out, given the high levels of explosive gases still present in the tunnels.

All 29 miners were believed to be dead after a second explosion rocked the Pike River Coal Mine on Wednesday.  The initial blast occurred last Friday.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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