Friday, June 3, 2011


ABC/AFP - South Korea’s defence ministry says some of its soldiers have been using pictures of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il for official target practice.  Showing disrespect to portraits of Kim Jong-il in North Korea usually results in offenders being sent to the gulag.  But in the South, some army training centres have been using pictures of the dictator for target practice, along with images of his son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un.  Each training centre has the freedom to decide its own training procedures and the ministry issued no instructions about targets.   
The practice is designed to boost battle spirit after the North’s bombardment of a South Korea border island last year which left four dead, says a military official.  “Some voice concern that the practice can provoke the North, but one should not forget the North staged two attacks that killed our civilians and soldiers,” the official said.
South Korea accused the North of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives, but the North has denied the charge.  Some officials fear the target practice could antagonise the communist state.   
Disrespecting portraits of the ruling family would be a grave crime in the North, where a massive personality cult surrounds the Kims.  Official media in 2007 carried approving accounts of parents who sacrificed children to save such portraits during floods.

South Korean military units have admitted to using the pictures of Kim Jong-il, his youngest son, and the leader’s late father as targets during firing drills.  South Korean government sources say they are putting an end to the practice of using photographs of North Korea’s ruling family for target practice.  This practice which has the intention to “boost battle spirit” is not new.  The Mahabharata tells us about an iron statue of Vrkodara (Bhima) which was kept in the Kaurava camp during the Kurukshetra battle, and Duryodhana daily practiced on it with his mace. 

After the Kurukshetra war was over, King Dhritarastra, accompanied by Gandhari, proceeded toward the battlefield. The Pandavas offered obeisances unto the King, and the King in turn embraced each one of them reluctantly.  Having embraced Yudhisthira the blind King sought to embrace Bhima. Knowing the intentions of Dhritarastra, Lord Krishna took Bhima to the side and put an iron statue of Bhima in his place. That statue had been kept in the Kaurava camp, and Duryodhana had daily practiced on it with his mace.  When Dhritarastra had seized the iron statue of Bhima, he squeezed it with all his strength and thus crushed it into dust.  Dhritarastra thought that he had killed Bhima, and tears of lamentation came to his eyes.  Lord Vasudeva (Shri Krishna) said, "Do not grieve, O King, for Bhima has not been slain. It was an iron statue that you embraced."

“Mahabharata Summation”
1st Chapter of Karna Parva
“Lamentation Over the Dead Relatives”
New Vrindavana community, June 3, 1985.

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