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Great leader

May 12th 2016

Great leader
May 12, 2016

thought the first North Korean party congress sinds the nineteeneighties was quite inspiring. The worship of personal leadership happens to be quite the ‘in’ thing right now, and Kim Jong-un has perfected this art. His grandson Kim Ilsung gets to modernise his leadership even further, however.

First, let us go back in time. Six years ago I visited NorthKorea. I was stood on the enormous central square, where the gigantic portraits of Marx, Lenin and Kim looked down upon a crowd of tens of thousands of people, all of which were practising for the Arirang Festival, an annual display of power only the state of North Korea can pull off.

The participants adhere to a strict choreography, and blend together into a rhythmic whole. These performances, taking place in immense stadiums, are enough to give even a passionate democrat goosebumps.

Just like the party congress and in fact pretty much all North Korean public life, the Arirang Festival is dedicated not just to the worship of the leader, but also to the total submission to the national ideology, juche. This concept is often translated as ‘self-reliance’, but this does not completely cover all of the term’s connotations. Juche is all about the people forming one flock that is to blindly follow the Outstanding Leader. Then and only then can the people truly emancipate themselves and become sovereign.

Juche makes for constant peer pressure, with the large scale dancing being the ultimate expression of it. Individual expression in the form of opinion or art (as is common in the west) is out of the question. Kim Jongun got one thing right: you cannot make it on your own. You need strength in numbers.

The same thought must have crossed the minds of those working at Marvel, the American publisher of comics, and owner of superheroes like SpiderMan, AntMan and the Hulk.

With the introduction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, films like ‘Captain America: Civil War’ dissolve the borders between the worlds of different superheroes, urging them to all work together. In this film, Marvel introduces a new character: Black Panther, a black superhero and king of the fictional African country Wakanda. Getting him on board seems like a wise move, since diverse teams come up with refreshing ideas and prevent the occurrence of ‘groupthink’.

If Kim Jong-un is looking to modernise his leadership he should follow in the footsteps of the superheroes featured in this film, which he must have seen by now, being quite the film buff.

Modern teamwork does not spring from hierarchy, but rather from a hub, a node within a network. Good leadership is accommodating and human. According to ‘The Power Paradox’ by American professor in psychology Dacher Keltner one does not obtain power through force, but rather through intelligence and empathy.

Is anyone up for informing the Brilliant Comrade and Outstanding Leader?

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