The Gist: Poet Jang Jin-sung on North Korea Propaganda and Kim Jong-il.

The Former Poet Laureate to Kim Jong-il Tells His Story on The Gist

The Former Poet Laureate to Kim Jong-il Tells His Story on The Gist

A daily news and culture podcast with Mike Pesca.
Feb. 3 2015 7:48 PM

North Korea’s Former Poet Laureate

When he first met Kim Jong-il, Jang Jin-sung was surprised to see the godlike figure crying to folk songs, stroking a Maltese puppy, and wearing high heels.

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For Kim Jong-il’s former poet, it was meeting the supreme leader in person that broke the propaganda spell.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Chien-Min Chung/Getty Images.

Listen to Episode 187 of Slate’s The Gist:


Today on The Gist, a look at how propaganda thrives in North Korea from the perspective of Kim Jong-il’s former poet laureate, Jang Jin-sung. He’s the author of Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee—A Look Inside North Korea. For the Spiel, a new way to understand the fiery conversation about vaccines.


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Mike Pesca is the host of the Slate daily podcast The Gist. He also contributes reports and commentary to NPR.