|Kim Jong Un tours an orphanage|
The New York Times has a story on its website today about how, in addition to launching missiles, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is trying to solidify his position with infrastructure projects.
One of those projects turns out to be a great big, brand new orphanage.
That got me curious, so I did a Google search. Apparently, North Korea’s Respected Supreme Leader, as he is known there, has quite a thing for orphanages. On what is apparently North Korea’s official YouTube channel (or as it calls itself, the “#1 Channel on North Korea on YouTube”) there are at least two videos of Kim touring orphanages. Each is narrated with the same breathless enthusiasm I thought was reserved for the missile launches:
Since I don’t speak Korean I don’t know what the narrator is actually saying. So I don’t know if she’s talking about how “homelike” the places are and how much the “house parents” love the children – just like a family, of course. But in this English language account of another visit to an orphanage, from North Korea’s official website, Kim is quoted as doing what so many in American orphanage advocates do: He takes a gratuitous swipe at the children’s birth parents.
That’s not the only way in which North Korean orphanage propaganda is remarkably like American orphanage propaganda: There’s a heavy emphasis on how beautiful the buildings and grounds are (what American residential treatment propagandists sometimes call the “therapeutic milieu”) and all the material goods the children receive – as if that’s a substitute for love.
Sure, there’s been one expose after another about the failure of orphanages, including places once touted as models. Sure, the research on the harm of such places is overwhelming. Sure, calling them “residential treatment centers” doesn’t help – the research documenting that such places are useless also is overwhelming. And of course we wouldn’t have the so-called shortage of foster parents used to justify orphanages if we stopped taking away so many children needlessly.
But take heart, Newt Gingrich – and all the other Americans, including some self-proclaimed liberals - who think orphanages are the answer to our child welfare problems: At least you’ve got North Korea’s foremost child welfare expert, Kim Jong Un, on your side.