The North Korea Lobby, French Edition
As the Unhasu Orchestra prepares for its March 14 French debut, a few words about the communications and political environment surrounding North Korea in France seem apropos. — Editor
Emmanuel Daniel, “Qui sont les lobbies nord-coréens en France [Who Lobbies for North Korea in France]?” Slate.fr, January 6, 2012 http://www.slate.fr/story/48375/coree-nord-france-juche [Translated by Adam Cathcart.]
Upon the death of Korea’s “Dear Leader,” messages of condolence poured in from different countries (even Japan and South Korea). But from France? Nothing. The Quai d’Orsay (Foreign Ministry) was not moved to present official condolences at the death of Kim Jong Il.
While the diplomatic relations between France and North Korea may be in conflict, there are other actors who mobilize in order to ameliorate the relations between the state, and, as well, rehabilitate the image of North Korea in France. These people aim to shed light from under the shadow of the demonization of the DPRK.
Phantom Supporters / Les soutiens fantômes
They gained better renown thanks to the death of Kim Jong Il. Since December 19, the French Juche-ist Party (Parti juchéen de France, hereafter FJP) has increased its visibility, at least online. Does this pro-North Korean group actually exist, or is it a vast smokescreen (fumisterie)? Under the Marxist-Leninist mode of obedience known as Juche under North Korean regime ideology, the group piled up provocations on Twitter, from which it mounted attacks on the French media and defamed the French presidential candidates.
One problem: the FJP is not considered an actual political party. “We requested [such status] in 2010,” said the spokesman of the party, Gildas M., “but were refused as insufficiently credible.” He said that “there were few chances to put forward candidates” and described the group’s decision of “putting up provocative posters so that we could become known amid the presidential race.”
One can trace the existence of the FJP through diverse internet sites and through the forums where the “Party” appears since 2009. On all of the Web, only one article (from an extreme-right wing magazine) evokes a possible FJP candidacy in regional elections in 2010. In the end, the candidate was not presented. “The death of Kim Jong Il illumated an empty shell (une coquille vide)” recalls Gildas.
The “thirty members, of whom a dozen are active,” says Gildas, meet in Parisian universities on Rue d’Assas or on Rue de l’Inalco. The group’s most cherished goal is connected with the effort for Europe or France to make a “popular democracy” calculated on the model of North Korea but “adapted to local context.”
Apart from that, they defend the honor of Kim Jong Il, who is “not a dictator,” and seek to un-dramatize the extent of the damage done towards human rights in North Korea. “The refugees are taken in by the South Korean evangelical sects who pay them to deliver false testimonials,” assures Gildas. “The media is being manipulated.” Gildas says he visits North Korea two or three times per year, trips financed by the local authorities. He insists that the FJP has contact with North Korean officials, notably among the Kim Il Song Youth League.
In spite of that, the FJP is unknown in more established French-North Korean circles. Patrick Kuentzmann, the General Secretary of the French-North Korean Friendship Association, says that “Korean diplomats do not know them; they have never met, not in North Korea, nor are they invited to the Bastille Day party organized by the general delegation in Paris.” Saying the group’s members were “seen as too low” by North Korean diplomats, Kuentzmann said, “For me, it’s nothing but a group of kids who are looking to create a buzz.”
In spite of doing notable work to become active on the internet, and the fact that the FJP insists upon its existence, its members are mainly talking in circles. While the group wants to resemble more than simply convinced Marxist-Leninists in a North Korean sauce, their relations with the DPRK and their political relevance remains little more than a phantasm.