Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ding dong, the Great Leader's dead...

Well well... the day has finally come, Kim Jong Il, the leader of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea has passed away (that's North Korea by the way).

Young Kim Jong Il
I've read countless articles and have watched many videos of the events surrounding the "great leader's" passing. I've seen the throngs of North Koreans crying in the streets, thumping their chests, wailing. "Oh whatever shall we do now that our great leader is gone!?" What a spectacle! But honestly, I expected as much. The same thing happened back in 1994 when Kim Il Sung (Kim Jong Il's father) took leave of this world. One interesting thing though, is a few of my friends have been asking me some interesting questions as for some time I was quite the North Korean enthusiast and have done extensive independent research on the subject. I like to think know a bit about how things work over there. I used to be a member of the KFA (Korean Friendship Association), an online group endorsed by representatives of the DPRK in an effort to bolster international relations. Suffice it to say it was fairly interesting getting the North Korean side of things. But more on that later... perhaps.  

North Korean citizens weeping for their great leader. I could believe a lot of the older people are probably crying for real.

 The first question I hear a lot of people asking is, "are those North Korean people really crying or is it all a show?" Well, good question...

In my opinion, I would have to say that its likely a mish-mash. What you have is a group of people who:

A. Are actually bawling, because they actually give a shit about Kim Jong Il and have been brain-washed into thinking he really was the only thing standing between North Korea and the swarms of evil American "imperialists" waiting to invade the North Korea at a moment's notice.

B. Actors who are likely party-loyalists who have been inserted by the party into these groups of people to quite literally "give a show", and show all the international news broadcasters just how much everyone loves the "great leader" and are devistated by his passing.

C. People who are forcing out tears or even flat out faking it cause they don't want to show that they really don't give two shits about the "great leader" because they are fearful that the people who do may notice and report them (or something like that).

 I'm not sure about the ratio, and I don't even know for sure if this is the case of course, but if you watch the videos of the sobbing masses it feels like its fairly easy to tell who's genuinely distraught and who's faking. I do believe that some North Koreans are genuinely devastated about his passing. The national psyche over there is really something else, with the "Kim dynasty" enjoying a status that lies somewhere between "war heroes" and "gods on earth" with their own mythology to boot. Its pretty hard to wrap one's head around. However, it has been discovered in the past that there are those in North Korea who oppose the regime, or are at the very least indifferent towards it.  It would be these people that would likely fit in category "C". Just like any country, North Korea and its people are complicated. It's never a good idea to generalize too much.

 The other question I've heard people asking is "What happens now?"

Old propaganda poster depicting a North Korean soldier smashing the White House.
 Well, its hard to say. Kim Jong Il's health had been declining for some time now and its safe to say that the DPRK has likely had a contingency plan for the great leader's potential demise since before he assumed the position. So the answer to that question is "probably not a whole lot." For those of you who think that North Korea is going to undergo some massive transformation as a result of Kim Jong Il's death... well.... get ready to be disappointed. How can I make such an absolute assumption? Well I can't really, after-all what do I know? I'm just a Canadian University student. But consider this; how much power do you think Kim Jong Il actually had? How much of North Korea's governance fell to the party and its members? Was Kim Jong Il just a figurehead? and for that matter, how long has Kim actually been dead? I don't really know the answers to these questions but these are all things to think about when addressing this question.

The "crown-prince" Kim Jong Un, successor to the Kim throne. (Ahem... Kim Jong Il's Son)
I think it could be possible that, assuming Kim Jong Il really did have most of the power, if his son is not up to snuff, then we may see some pretty interesting developments in North Korea. After-all, a regime such as North Korea's that relies largely on the ignorance of its people can't really be expected last forever in this mass information age we live in. That's my opinion anyway. I'd just like to get to visit North Korea before any of that happens, just to take some "before shots" and to say I was there.

Last question I'll answer is "What did you think of Kim Jong Il?"

I dunno if that's supposed to be Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Sung, but I could not imagine either of them riding a horse like this... especially not the former.
 Well personally I think that anyone who rules over people, who lives in the lap of luxury while keeping their people poor and ignorant, has failed in their purpose, is the scum of the earth, will be judged harshly by history and hopefully will get whats coming to them. In other words, Kim Jong Il was a despot of the worst kind and enjoyed a ridiculously decadent lifestyle at the expense of his people. However, he died prematurely, probably as a result of that lifestyle. So perhaps there is some justice. I can't imagine what his son is going to be like. 

Regardless, it will be interesting to see what happens with North Korea over the next while and I sincerely hope for the safety of South Korea and all the loved ones I have over there.


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