December 19, 2013

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un

“€¢ Dumb petulance: “the erratic act of a teenager’s riot against an annoying adult”€”I am forced to admit that we have just witnessed pure, undiluted political stupidity.”

So far there are no reports of Kim Jong-un playing roll-your-own with his sisters, but his wife’s position doesn’t seem too secure. She may in fact be dead: There have been no verified sightings of her for seven weeks, although she was often at Kim’s side in public before that.

North Korea watchers were keen to see whether Mrs. Kim would show up with hubby at the annual memorial service for Kim’s father this Tuesday. The Norks issued some video footage showing her at Kim’s side, but some analysts say the footage is from last year’s ceremony. Some others say the footage is this year’s all right but that it shows a body double, not Mrs. Kim. Indeed, it doesn’t look much like her.

I have no more idea than anyone else what’s going on in Pyongyang’s corridors of power, but I watch these events with fascination.

Part of the fascination is sentimentally personal. My first-ever cover story in a significant outlet, 30 years ago, was about North Korea. I try to keep up to date on the place.

Some of the rest is the old Anglo-Saxon conviction that foreign nations exist for our entertainment. Separated from them by water”€”in the case of North America, lots of water”€”we can relax and enjoy the shows they put on.

Most of those shows are comedies, of course. I write as people are still chuckling over the fake sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Before that, we were guffawing at Signor Berlusconi’s pratfalls. Sometimes you get a romantic drama”€”think of Eva Perón or Princess Di.

And then there’s horror, an established style of entertainment since Euripides. That’s what you get in almost every sentence when reading about North Korea. About conditions in North Korea’s gulag, for example, some components of which are frank extermination camps: “€œAn estimated 30,000 inmates have simply vanished from the notorious Camp 22.”€

This is not the flyblown squalid horror of Africa, which one can regard with calm detachment, Africans being too backward and dysfunctional to present any real threat to the civilized world. This is high-IQ craziness, calculating and devious”€”Caligula with nukes and missiles. Are you scared? You should be.


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