Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, December 20, 2011

IT’s instructive to compare the Chinese print media’s response to the deaths of both Kim Jong-il and Vaclav Havel.

Poster Marc at the site One Free Korea provides the links to the China Daily’s obituaries of Kim and of Havel.

I also recommend reading Joshua Stanton’s post on Kim’s death at One Free Korea. The views of someone who pays close attention are more instructive than the generic drive-bys in the Western media.

For all the wailing in public, Mr. Stanton thinks that North Koreans generally despised him, and hold his son in even less regard. He writes:

Kim Jong Il had spent the decades before his father’s death cultivating relationships with his father’s generals. Now look at Jong-Eun’s eyes. There is cruelty and arrogance in them, but it’s the fear I see. That’s the sort of face a suburban sex offender wears to the exercise yard at Pelican Bay. No matter how many icons of him are placed in living rooms, classrooms, or lapel pins, he will spend the rest of his life stepping warily within a nest of vipers. The real power will stay with Kim Jong Il’s old comrades and relatives: Kim Young Il; Jang Song-Thaek, whose portfolio includes North Korea’s political prison camps; General Ri Yong-Ho; General O Kuk-Ryol, whose family controls the counterfeiting rackets; and Kim Jong Il’s sister (and Jang’s wife) Kim Kyong-Hui, who is said to have pushed hard for North Korea’s disastrous currency redenomination and confiscation last year. As a partial consequence of that, refugees report finding the night’s toll of the dead lying around the train stations each morning. That is why any hopes that this transition is a harbinger of reforms are probably false. The state isn’t interested in reform, and Kim Jong-Eun’s coronation won’t change that, because it is a sham. But that doesn’t mean that the regime can stop change forever.


Psychologically, so much has changed in North Korea. The regime was not really ready for this day. Its deification of Kim Jong-Eun has been uncharacteristically halting, even timid. The regime understands how volatile a moment this is. The Daily NK reports that it has closed its border with China, closed all markets, imposed a near-curfew, and filled the streets of at least one city with armed soldiers. This is not the reaction of a state that expects its subjects to erupt in spontaneous grief.

More videos on the public reaction from this North Korean site; you’ll still be able to figure it out if you can’t read Korean.

Observes Mr. Stanton: “Faking or not? In such a place as North Korea, it can’t be hard to find reasons to cry real tears.”

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