North Koreans roll their eyes during May Day lectures about socialism’s superiority

Workers in North Korea ridiculed their government’s May Day propaganda which touted the superiority of socialism at a time when most of the people are struggling to put enough food on the table, sources in the country told RFA.

May Day, or International Workers’ Day, is an annual celebration of the fight for labor rights and an important holiday in communist countries. The North Korean government held special lectures for factory workers ahead of the holiday, where they emphasized the evils of capitalism to show why North Korean socialism is better.

At one such lecture at the Chongjin Steel Factory in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong, workers were not buying the party official’s argument.

“They gathered workers into conference rooms, pointing out the problems of capitalism for a whole hour, and then rambled on and on about socialism and how it is superior,” a source working in the factory told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“The workers scoffed at the message, saying that nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

They even openly objected while the lecturer was speaking.

“When he said that all the workers under the socialist system live happily and receive many benefits from their government, the workers cried out, ‘How can he tell such a lie with a straight face, knowing all the hardships we are facing right now?’” the worker said.

“This kind of propaganda that reinforces the superiority of socialism is offending the workers, and we can remain silent no more,” he said.

In the northern province of Ryanggang, the subject of the lecture was how workers’ independence has been trampled in capitalist countries and they are not treated like people, a worker at a factory there told RFA on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

“Most of the workers are well aware that the lecture was unrealistic,” he said.

“These days, we all know about how the capitalist countries are the richest, and we know about the rights that workers have from foreign and South Korean movies and TV shows, and from overseas radio broadcasts,” the second source said.

The workers therefore ignored the lecture completely.

“The reality is that no matter how much the speaker stresses that workers are exploited, pressured, subjugated and repressed under the capitalist system, his words are not being heard,” the second source said.

“In the past, during these kinds of lectures, there would be many who actually agree, but these days we just don’t respond to these empty words that declare this as the ideal society in which our independent rights are guaranteed and we are all equal under the socialist system.

“Most workers feel like they are at a dead end in terms of their livelihoods, and they express their dissatisfaction by agreeing just for appearances sake.”

Translated by Claire Lee and Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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