From his book, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything"

In the early months of this century, I made a visit to North Korea. Here, contained within a hermetic quadrilateral of territory enclosed either by sea or by near-impenetrable frontiers, is a land entirely given over to adulation. Every waking moment of the citizen - the subject - is consecrated to praise of the Supreme Being and his Father. Every schoolroom resounds with it, every film and opera and play is devoted to it, every radio and television transmission is given up to it. So are all books and magazines and newspaper articles, all sporting events and all workplaces.

I used to wonder what it would be like to have to sing everlasting praises, and now I know. Nor is the devil forgotten: the unsleeping evil of outsiders and unbelievers is warded off with a perpetual vigilance, which includes daily moments of ritual in the workplace in which hatred of the “other” in inculcated. The North Korea state was born at about the same time that Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, and one could almost believe that the holy father of the state, Kim Il-Sung, was given a copy of the novel and asked if he could make it work in practice.

Yet even Orwell did not dare to have it said that “Big Brother’s” birth was attended by miraculous signs and portents - such as birds hailing the glorious event by singing in human words. Nor did the Inner Party of Airship One/Oceania spend billions of scarce dollars, at a time of horrific famine, to prove that the ludicrous mammal Kim Il-Sung and his pathetic mammal son, Kim Jong-Il, were two incarnations of the same person. (In this version of the Arian heresy so much condemned by Athanasius, North Korea is unique in having a dead man as head of state: Kim Jong-Il is the head of the party and the army but the presidency is held in perpetuity by his deceased father, which makes the country a necrocracy or mausolocracy as well as a regime that is only one figure short of a Trinity.)

The afterlife is not mentioned in North Korea, because the idea of a defection in any direction is very strongly discouraged, but as against that it is not claimed that the two Kims will continue to dominate you after you are dead. Students of the subject can easily see that what we have in North Korea is not so much an extreme form of Communism—the term is hardly mentioned amid the storms of ecstatic dedication—as a debased yet refined form of Confucianism and ancestor worship.

Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011)
Author and journalist