Since this article was first published in February 2015 North Korea has gone from being a half forgotten backwater to public enemy number one to everyone’s best friend as a result of the unexpected rapprochement with their neighbours to the south and the USA. Now the country seems to be back on the naughty step again. This could be a good time to remind ourselves of what a deeply peculiar place it appears to be, certainly if its slogans are anything to go by…
North Korea (that’s the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea if we’re going to do this by the book) a few years back released 310 patriotic slogans designed to encourage the population to greater efforts in the pursuit of Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism. Fair enough: we all need goals and someone to crack the whip over us if we fail to meet them.
It’s easy to mock North Korea and its strange obsessions. However, one definition of political success is to accomplish what you set out to do (regardless of how depraved that might be). By this test, it’s hard to think of any political rulers, let alone a consecutive three-man dynasty, who have achieved more success than the three Kims. Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Idi Amin – all tried, all fell short. Kim Il-Sung, the dynasty’s founder, died in 1994 but four years later was appointed ‘Eternal Leader’. Now, that’s what I call a legacy. Enoch Powell once said that ‘all political careers end in failure.’ Not in North Korea they don’t.
Moving quickly along and turning to a politician whose career is certainly seen as following Powell’s maxim, in about 2008 Gordon Brown floated the idea of there being a British national slogan. Just the one slogan, mind: not 310. Even that proved to be one too many.
The Times picked up on it and launched a competition which tapped into all that world-weariness for which our country has become so famous, or infamous. The winning entry was typeset on the front page with a crest and latinate script. It read:
Fatso Dipso Asbo Tesco Lotto
And that was the end of Brown’s slogan plan.
I’ve had a look at these Korean ones trying to think how they might work out if applied here. I can’t go through all 310 but here are some things we might want to bear in mind before rushing into adopting them…
Let us accomplish the revolution in the revolutionary spirit of Paektu, the spirit of the blizzards of Paektu! and Let us hasten final victory through a revolutionary ideological offensive!
Fighting talk – plan ahead and think big. There are a lot in this vein but I don’t think any would get through parliament, never mind the European Court. Nor do I know what our Parish Council would say. They don’t have the budget to implement this kind of policy. I sense they might also lack the will.
Let the wives of officers become dependable assistants to their husbands!
Not sure this one will work over here, either.
We serve the people!
Of course you do.
Thoroughly get rid of abuse of authority and bureaucracy!
Good idea. This really needs to be translated into Italian, though.
Serve the country and people!
You’ve had that one.
Step up the three-revolution red flag movement!
‘Three-revolution’ sounds ambitious. Who, the member for Scraggley West asks, will pay for this?
Implement to the letter the four-point strategic line and three tasks for increasing military strength!
The Daily Mail has now got involved – ‘Four-point Strategic Line Risks House-price Meltdown.’
Be constantly on the alert without a moment’s relaxation!
Jeez. Tough one. I could keep that up for twenty minutes tops. Then I’d need a cup of tea and a lie down.
Let us build a fairyland for the people by dint of science!
Do let’s. But who would get the contract to run it? What about the merchandising rights, the TV deals, the franchising?
These aren’t really working for us, Kim – up your game, man! Be universal! Be specific! Be focus-group-aware!
Always live the way you did as a soldier!
Please god, no. I never was a soldier but I once spent an evening in Warminster. Never again.
Go beyond the cutting edge!
Oh dear, we’re moving into management jargon. It had to happen sooner or later. Beyond the cutting edge there is nothing, or perhaps only the thing you want to cut.
Let us encourage organic farming on an extensive scale!
This is better. Good idea. You see – our minds are already marching forward as one, trampling before them the rotting weeds of outdated imperialist dogma!
Grow vegetables extensively in greenhouses!
I don’t know whether the problem here is with people using greenhouses to grow things other than vegetables, or not growing vegetables in greenhouses extensively enough, or growing vegetables in places other than greenhouses. The translator has been shot. Next.
Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!
Wow. There’s an ambition for you. If lack of sunlight and fungal standards of hygiene are what is meant then many Britons are there already.
I’m getting the feeling Kim’s starting to come to the boil. Let’s see what’s up next…
Let the strong wind of fish farming blow across the country!
Maybe that hope was a bit premature. Not very happily phrased; also strong winds do bad things to roofs and thus to property prices. The Daily Mail won’t like that. What’s next?
Conduct on a large scale fish and other seafood farming in rivers, lakes and seas!
This is like one of those public service announcements from the 1960s but before it had been proof read. Seafood farmed in rivers? I ask you. And where else do you farm fish but in rivers, lakes and seas? In the toilet?
When you go to a restaurant and they have a lot of stuff on the menu, my rule is always to stick to the things at the top as they’re the ones they can actually cook. The rest are there to make the menu seem bigger and better than it really is. Kim Slo-Gan, I’m starting to get this feeling with your list – prove me wrong…
Produce larger quantities of high-quality consumer goods which are favoured by the people and have a competitive edge on the world market!
And you have! Bill Gates couldn’t have put it better. Keep ‘em coming, Kim…
Keep the laughter of the children singing by increasing the production of their foodstuffs!
Not so sure about this one. As the Daily Mail reminds us, child obesity is likely to cause a house-price Armageddon. What kind of foodstuffs, anyway? Organic chick-pea and lentil soup or Haribo’s Party Mix?
Give fullest play to the vitality of the movement of producing August 3 consumer goods!
This is code, like you get in spy novels: ‘It’s raining in Manchester.’ ‘Yes, and my fish tank is full of soup.’
Develop and make effective use of wind, tidal, geothermal and solar energy!
Fine, unless it was happening within 20 miles of where you live in which case the effect on house prices, as the Daily Mail will be quick to point out, would be catastrophic.
Let the rail transport sector establish rigid discipline as the army does and fully satisfy the demands by the national economy for transport!
Kim, you’re on fire! The railways being run by the army (or the Northampton Girl Guides, the Old Vic’s make-up department or the Tranmere Rovers back four) has got to be better than the shambles we currently have to put up with.
Kim: I sense you’re getting a bit of traction here. Keep giving…
Work out scrupulous measures to prevent damages from flooding, severe drought, storm and heavy snowfall!
West Berkshire Council can deal with this one.
Let the cosmos flowers bloom all along the roads and railways!
I don’t know what cosmos flowers are but they sound lovely. Let them bloom. Another 50,000 votes in the bag. Next.
Radically improve the quality of products and enhance their competitive edge!
A bit of work needed back at base first, Kim. Hands up who’s got a North Korean smartphone, or even a North Korean toaster? See what I mean? Customer service might be a problem, too.
Play sports games in an offensive way, the way the anti-Japanese guerrillas did!
I never knew you were a Chelsea fan, Kim.
Make every workplace overflow with revolutionary and fighting morale by actively conducting mass-based cultural and artistic activities!
I used to work for a publishing company: we thought our bosses were idiots, we played cricket in the office as much as possible and we spent a lot of the time on the new Macs designing party invites for our friends. Does that count?
Carry out the Party’s policies as exactly in all aspects as the Chonji Lubricating Oil Factory did!
And what a right bunch of toadies they must be.
We’re nearly done. This is the last great push, comrades…
Let us cover the whole country with fruit and other trees and flowers!
What, the whole country? Even the Chonji Lubricating Oil Factory?
As long as we are with the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, sorrow and hardship as well as joy are an honour for us!
As long as we are with the respected [insert name of preferred religious leader or deity], sorrow and hardship as well as joy are an honour for us too!
The Big Society is my great passion!
Er…apologies, this seems to have been slipped in from some other ruler’s dictionary of empty promises. We’re very sorry, no idea how that happened. Just to be on the safe side, we’ve now shot the new translator.
We’re all in this together!
We’re starting to run out of translators. We’d better wrap this up.
Planning, command and review, all in a three-dimensional way and at lightning speed!
A wonderfully energetic image with which to finish. One of our own political parties (yes, I know: aren’t we lucky to have more than one) might want to adopt this, or any of the other 309, as its own battle cry. Any one will do. After all, they’re only slogans, something to shout down a megaphone, print on a poster or drop into a speech. It’s not as if they actually have to mean anything…
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