When Kim Jong Il died, many people in the world were confused by what happened to be a genuine outpouring of grief among North Korean citizens. Does Johnson's fiction help us understand how a nation of people so obviously oppressed by its totalitarian government nonetheless mourn the loss of the leader who abused them? Why or why not?

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Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son helps the reader understand that while the former leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, was a dictator, his people were conditioned to believe he was a benevolent leader. Johnson shows that the media in North Korea only portrayed the better side of their leader. For example, in the introduction to the book, "Our Dear Leader Kim Jong Il was seen offering on-the-spot guidance to the engineers deepening the Taedong River Channel" (page 3). The media only portrays the leader as omniscient and benevolent, and the culture of the country reinforces people's reverence for their leader. For example, when Commander Ga (really Pak Jun Do) is in prison, he only gets off one day a year--Feburary 16, which is Kim Jong Il's birthday (page 191). The culture reinforces the idea that the leader is a kind of deity, and the culture worships him instead of worshipping religious figures.

Johnson's book also portrays the fear that compels North Koreans to obey their leader. For example, when the new Commander Ga and Sun Moon hear Kim Jong Il say that Pak Jun Do is the real Commander Ga, Pak Jun Do and Sun Moon are aware that the real Commander Ga is lost forever. Sun Moon thinks, "he had been replaced and she would never see him again" (page 258). Though she is crushed, she does not say anything, as everyone fears the leader and his power. This power helps us understand why people obey the North Korean leader, and some perhaps felt compelled to show grief over his death out of fear.

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