This is what I wrote at the time:
7) Well this is big and interesting news. Kim Il Sung, leader of North
Korea, died and the last 2 weeks have been quite a sob fest for the North
Koreans and even some South Koreans. I sometimes wonder if the people
feel =obliged= to make that big deal of a show. My host ma is kind of
amused/surprised by all the wailing of the North Koreans -- Japanese would
never make such a display of losing all composure -- and Americans haven't
really either. Usu we just get really quiet. \
Anyway a few interesting things have come of this situation. North Korea
is welcoming any Koreans who want to pay their respects, but the South
Korea leaders, of course, do not want their people to be lining up w/
North Koreans, so the prime minister criticized Sung for starting the
Korean war and breaking up Korea. Of course, this did not go over too
well w/ the North Korean powers and one of the official radio stations
went so far as to say this speech was a declaration of war. Whoopee. And
talks were supposed to begin between the 2 Koreas...
There's a part to the story I didn't write down in my journal, which was pretty funny.
I was in a summer program in Japan in 1994, where I was staying with a Japanese family (just wife & husband, about mid-50s, they had a grown-up daughter who had one daughter herself).
I had a curfew from them of 11:30pm (yay), and so generally I'd go to the one bar that welcomed foreigners with the other students in the program, drink about 3-4 beers in one hour, and then go back to the house in a taxi. The host mother would be up watching TV when I got back.
So I get back that night, and she's got the TV on as per usual, and all that is being shown are all these people weeping & wailing.
(A note: my host mother didn't really speak English at all, and I had been studying Japanese for only 2 years)
It took her over a half hour to convey to me that Kim Il Sung had died. I'm smiling and nodding the entire time, nicely buzzed, and thinking my language skills are phenomenal - amazing how the drunker I got, the more I thought my communication skills improved.
All she was saying, over and over, was "Kim Il Sung is dead". That's it. She could tell I had no idea what she was talking about, so she kept pointing at the TV, and finally when a picture of Kim Il Sung popped up, I said "OOOOOOOHHHH".
The only funnier convo we had that summer involved learning the word "pantsu" didn't mean pants.
She told me at the end of the summer that I was the funniest student she had ever hosted. Because I kept saying/doing ridiculous things (and would laugh at myself when I realized the errors I had been making...and then would just go an make more silly mistakes.)