Kim Jong-il: Growing senile?
Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 23, 2007
THIS STORY IS FLYING SO LOW under the radar, it makes me suspect that people who follow North Korea more closely than I do might not be taking it seriously.
The Daily NK reported on the 20th that a Japanese source confirmed a story American intelligence heard about a year ago: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is starting to suffer from dementia.
According to the source, “The U.S. official obtained intelligence that Kim Jong Il is suffering from symptom of dementia since a year ago. Such news is a top-secret subject which only the most important figures in North Korea’s seat of power know.”
However, the source relayed, “The U.S. official said, they do not currently know whether Kim Jong Il’s symptom is Alzheimer or senile dementia.”
The report notes that Kim makes policy decisions by personally approving reports that are submitted to him, but some people in his inner circle concerned about his behavior have begun to bypass Kim and ratify those reports on their own.
They also report that Kim can go on inspection tours and will meet with South Korean President Kim Moo-hyun during the Inter-Korea summit as scheduled on October 2-4, but his aides are concerned because they “do not know what he will say and cannot control what kind of strange behaviors he will display.”
Secretive dictatorships such as the Kim Family Regime are hotbeds for the germination of overblown rumors, so the story might have no basis in fact. The DPRK website is the place to go for news on North Korea, and they haven’t mentioned it. Neither has The Marmot, unless I missed it. It might be that everyone is focused on the upcoming summit and North Korea’s connection with the recent Israeli raid in Syria.
Even if this is nothing but a rumor, however, it does compel one to consider the gruesome possibilities of what might occur if it were true, or were ever to come to pass. Kim is 65, which is a bit early for either Alzheimer’s or senile dementia. Then again, this is a man who by all accounts has lived a profligate life, and was at one time the world’s largest consumer of Hennessey’s. It is also not too early for people both inside and outside North Korea to begin thinking of who will succeed him.
Contingency plans may already be in place. It would not be out of the question for rough preparations to have already been made for dealing with a sudden death by heart attack or stroke, or a more drawn-out terminal illness.
It is not as likely, however, that people in the inner circle have considered their options if Kim slowly but inexorably grew mentally incompetent. Considering the Dear Leader’s behavior over the years and his seemingly supreme power, it is not pleasant to speculate on the potential occurrence of some disturbing events as he slips into a twilight world. (Was he serious about ordering those executions? The distribution of funds? Will he forget tomorrow, or will he execute us if we delay?)
The character, or lack of it, of the people around him would become just as important as his physical and mental condition.
And then we could start to think about what might happen if he turned his attention to South Korea and Japan one day, somehow thought it was 1975 again, and happened to be in a particularly petulant mood.