Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on the Death of Kim Jong Il

There has been  various  reactions to the  news  that  North Korean  dictator Kim Jong-il  has  shuffled off his mortal coil.   The North Korean Central News Agency  announced the news with one of  their customary over the top performances.

The issues that  arise from  the transition of power in North Korea  are clearly very serious, given  the spectre of political instability in an insular, paranoid  nation that  possesses an atomic  weapon.   The issue of instability in the North is always  a troubling one for  South Korea.   The idea  that  the Korean  Peninsula will someday reunify, is one South Koreans  hope for,  yet in practice  the idea of the  border between North and South coming down,  is a problematic one for South Korea.

 North Korea is for all intents and purposes  a sealed bubble.  The image of the Korean Peninsula taken from the International Space Station  tells the story.  You see the  vast web of lights  that  outline  South Korea, and  the pitch dark outline of the North with one pinprick of light being  the  Capital  Pyongyang.  North Korea exists with  the vast majority of  its  population knowing only what  they have been told  by the Government.

Now imagine for a moment,  waking up one day and finding out  that  everything you have ever been told, taught or  believed about the world was in fact,  completely wrong.    Now times that  by  twelve million people, and you see  the dilemma reunification  poses for the South.   Unlike with Germany,  Korean reunification would create a refugee crisis on a biblical scale,  almost over night.

I remember my first visit to the border area between the two Koreas  (the "DMZ") .  It was in 1997.  It was , as you might imagine, a unique experience.  It remains essentially  the last remaining  front of the Cold War. It will be fascinating  to watch  the transition  of Power there.   Kim's appointed successor is his third son Kim Jon Eun, who is in his twenties, but  was recently made a four star General in the North Korean military.

It is in everyone's interest that  the  two Koreas  reconcile  peacefully.   The late Kim Jong il  was nothing if not unique.  His  flamboyant personal style and odd personality traits made him an easy target for comedy.  The  greatest example of course, being "South Park"  creators  Trey Parker and Matt Stone,  who used  Kim as  central villian  for their  movie  "Team America - World Police".  Giving the  "dear leader" his own moment in cinematic  history, and a song to go with it.

So we bid farewell to the  "dear leader"  with a look back at his moment of movie musical glory.

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