North Korea and South Korea are known by the rest of the world for their aggressive hatred for each other. Both sides put a lot of time and effort into keeping residents of the other side out. They also spend a lot of time spreading propaganda about each other — especially North Korea. North Korea is a veritable fount of anti-western culture and anti-South Korea propaganda. One of the most ridiculous examples of North Korean propaganda (apart from Kim Jong Il’s impressive golf skill) is Kijong-dong, “Propaganda Village” to South Korea, or “Peace Village” to North Korea.
Kijong-dong was built in the Korean demilitarized zone during the 1950s. It is a village full of what appear to be concrete apartment buildings and the like. Each building is painted in bright, clearly noticeable colors with blue roofs. There is a nearly 525 foot tall flag tower near the entrance that is topped with a massive North Korean flag (more on that later). Many of the buildings appear to be receiving electricity and they are equipped with loudspeakers (more on this later too). At the time it was built, most citizens on both side would have thought it an amazing place, if it was what it was said to be.
According to North Korean authorities, Kijong-dong is an agricultural community of roughly 200 families. They claim that the families work on a collective farm and live in harmony. Taken at face value, it is the picture of the communist ideal (at least, what the ideal should be). Everyone lives in peace with everyone else. Everyone shares and works hard for their community and everyone is happy. Sounds great, right? There is only one problem. According to Americans who have viewed Kijong-dong through telescopic lenses and according to South Korean villagers who live nearby, no one lives in Kijong-dong and no one ever has.
No one is allowed inside of Kijong-dong, except for the workers (what North Korea would have you believe are villagers). Therefore, there have been no close inspections of the place. However, people who have viewed it from a distance with telescopic lenses say that there are not even any windows in the buildings. Workers arrive every day and clean the village, turn lights on and off, give the general appearance of activity and then leave.
The proposed reason for this deception is that a village that ran the way Kijong-dong is supposed to run would look very appealing to starving South Korean residents. Truth be told, it would look good to starving North Koreans as well. The idea is that North Korea wanted to give the appearance of communist prosperity to get South Koreans to come over to their side. In fact, the loudspeakers at Kijong-dong blared promises of acceptance of South Koreans who decided to come to North Korea for decades. It is said that these promises played on a loop for up to 20 hours a day. When that did not work, communist opera and hate-propaganda replaced the empty promises. Finally, in 2004, it was agreed that the loudspeakers would be shut off (hopefully, for good).
South Korea is not without its own methods of “one-upping” North Korea. Anyone who has been to the Korean demilitarized zone will tell you that it is one of the best-guarded places on the planet, on both sides. North Koreans and South Koreans expend a lot of effort trying to make the other side look bad. When one seems to have succeeded, the other will take it to another level. Take the Kijong-dong flag for example. While the economy is failing and people are starving in North Korea, the authorities decide to engage in petty size games with South Korea. Kijong-dong had a huge flag tower, so the South Koreans built a bigger one. The North Koreans reciprocated in turn and on and on it went until Kijong-dong had what is sometimes said to be the largest flagpole in the world.
All of the Korean demilitarized zone seems like an effort in futility. Kijong-dong is money wasted, if the rumors that it is empty are true. The flag war was a waste of money and time. All of the labor expended on guarding the area is much needed, but only because the two sides cannot seem to agree. After roughly 50 years of basically staring at each other across a vast space and plotting small invasions, both sides remain where they started-with a lot of negotiating that is going nowhere and a lot of money wasted. Makes you wish they would spend some of that money on their citizens and come to terms already. In the meantime, the world watches anxiously, hoping that Kijong-dong will be populated with happy farmers one day and that it will not be obliterated in an atomic war.
Poohstanggt, Propaganda Village-North Korea, retrieved 11/11/10, travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/29355/Propaganda-Village-North-Korea-8