Amazing Events in North/South Korea

Amazing Events in North/South Korea

I thought I’d share some thoughts about what has been happening this past week – an about-face by Kim Jong Un that appears to have been so complete as to be verging on the absurd, and the sudden steps toward future reunification of North and South Korea which it has put in the headlines.


Kim met South Korean President Moon on April 27th, to shake hands and cross over the border to the South, before ‘spontaneously’ inviting Moon to step over to the North. They then stood and watched as a large tree was symbolically planted, joining the two sides of the demilitarized zone.


The theatrical aplomb of Kim is quite stunning; he appears to have transformed from buffoon and pariah into an intelligent and seasoned statesman in a matter of weeks. His off-the-cuff meeting and friendly rapprochement with Moon was consummate, staged for the world audience as holistic theatre-in-the-round has rarely been achieved for any audience. It makes one question whether the same expert stage management has not actually been in play for past years, running rings around a west, deplete of genuinely wise and international statesmen.


It had seemed that Kim Jong Un had taken up the deranged footfalls of his father, Kim Jong Il, who was mocked in The Onion in 2009, as planning to bring the Moon (the actual one in orbit) down to North Korea. There it would sit on the largest ever constructed ‘moon hand pedestal’ to be studied, ‘to learn the effects of moon possession on national glory.’  

It was funny because it seemed not totally implausible. It now appears the English educated son does not see the Juche (Korean ethnic, political, self-reliant, personality cult) with quite the same dearth of pragmatism as did his father and grandfather before him – or he was at least not so far gone from reality as to hastily drag himself back when his own rule and therefore life was in jeopardy. He welcomed a real-life Moon onto the North Korean side of the border, and does indeed seem to have been awarded a hefty prize of ‘national glory’ by the watching world’s media.


My thoughts when first hearing the news were mixed. Amazement, hope, and a sickening feeling. I have found it quite distasteful how easily the western media have dropped all knowledge of Kim’s past actions from their broadcasts and reports. It is as if they can only whoop and applaud at the full-pelt U-turn Kim has pulled off before them, three-wheeler shouldering the turn against all past precedent and hurtling around toward peace. What of the thousands dying in gulags as Kim stepped so gallantly over the DMZ? It should trouble us when the media reveals such ease and willingness to forget Kim’s past due to a great set of photos and live, then ever-rolling footage. This is the same man who fired anti-aircraft guns at his former Defence Minister. He knows about symbolism and its effects.


The smiling, tubby man stepping over the border, shaking hands, and planting a tree, was a mass-murderer. How should we deal with such an opportunity for peace? It must surely be seized, for the hope and freedom of millions of trapped, oppressed Koreans north of the border, for the starving and broken political prisoners, for the prospect of no more nuclear tests and missiles flying over Japanese islands. Yet we should not be immoral/amoral in our rush to embrace Kim. Embrace the opportunity, but not the unrepentant criminal, who would perhaps murder on mass again should it be beneficial to him. A balanced reply is difficult to maintain when so much seems to rest on optimism, but it is discomforting to see the western media applaud so readily a monster; and at the same time do their utmost to remove any credit from the ‘monster’ in their own midst, President Donald J. Trump.


At the recent Winter Olympics, this tactic was egregiously on display, as Kim Jong Un’s preening, arrogant sister was lauded, while Republican Vice President Mike Pence was mocked and criticised – for… not being as fashionable… for being Christian… the exact reason is rarely spelled out, though is so unabashedly recurring that is not hard to reach a sound conclusion. You could read of the accomplished tyrant’s sister with little mention of her accessory to the mass murder of her own people; meanwhile no one had a kind word for the man tasked with representing the west against the newly strutting starlet. When this same strategy continues on to favour the gulag-inheriting brother rather than the real-estate-inheriting American President, any fair observer has to be shaking their head.


The reality is that it is hard to imagine Kim planting any tree without the believable threat of Trump and his generals ordering military action. There have been South Korean presidents offering peace-pine-branches before, but all were slapped down. There have been numerous U.N. sanctions before, but a starving regime never relented. The only thing that has really changed is an America which might genuinely use its military and respond to the nuclear rhetoric. The Obama worldview, in which talking could solve everything, did not pan out well; murderous dictators do not respect notions of international peace. They do, however, get scared by the prospect of losing their megalomaniacal love of power.


The collapse of North Korea’s hollowed-out nuclear mountain likely also played a part in Kim’s trip to Panmunjom, to shake hands with President Moon. As things stand, Kim would still struggle to put a functioning warhead on a fully functioning intercontinental missile – but with the implosion of the radioactive mountain his chances of improving that nuclear capability have taken a hit.


Thus, Kim Jong Il has emerged with a theatrically staged U-turn, both sickening and hopeful in its immediacy and future prospects. We ought to remember the actor who has taken the stage, not be fooled into thinking the part played and the man playing the part are the exact same thing. I’m hopeful, that long-term, the North Korean prisoners freezing and working to the bone may have a chance at freedom, but cautious at trusting the propagandist who chose anti-aircraft guns as his means of censure. I hope the western media and political class may have a little wisdom and proportion when watching the show to be staged, for the manner and enthusiasm of their applause will certainly affect the gusto of the centre stage performer.


Copyright © 2018 by Dominic Graham

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