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Tag: Kim Jong-il is dead

Moonies (including Washington Times chairman!) crossed DMZ on condolence visit to North Korea?

It has been belatedly confirmed that three Korean-Americans—Unification Church international president Moon Hyung-jin, Pyeonghwa Motors CEO Park Sang-kwon and Washington Times chairman Douglas D.M. Joo—crossed the DMZ on Dec 24 and visited Pyongyang to offer condolences for the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Now, Yonhap suggests that the government kept quiet the fact that the visit—which came two days prior to Kim Dae-jung’s widow and the Hyundai chairwoman’s visit to North Korea—was made via the inter-Korean border by Kaesong. In fact, the Unification Ministry at the time said they learned of the visit via North Korean media reports, when in fact the government had opened the land route across the DMZ for the men, explaining that since the men were American, they could visit North Korea anyway through China, so why opened up the DMZ for them.

PS: Yes, I suppose blood is thicker than water (as are investments, of which the Unification Church has several in North Korea), but still, does anyone else find it unseemly that the chairman of one a conservative-leaning American newspaper is paying condolences to the North Koreans?

North Koreans want change: Aidan Foster-Carter

I hope Aidan Foster-Carter’s right about North Koreans wanting change:

More of the same is not really an option if [Kim Jong-un] is to lift national morale and address the concerns of ordinary Koreans, a third of whom are said to suffer from food shortages. And an anxious, only thinly united elite must decide if they are really ready to entrust the continuation of their privileged status to this whippersnapper. Pyongyang’s perfect choreography may not last.

We can only hope that once the choreography ends, the stage—and the audience—isn’t a complete wreck.

Kim Jong-il goes out atop Lincoln Continental

Seems car people are taking note that Kim Jong-il’s casket was carried by a Lincoln Continental, which just goes to show you that regardless of where you are, old folk and gangsters love Lincolns.

Disappointed they didn’t pimp it up, though.

N. Korea really upset S. Korea won’t allow condolences

One day ahead of the big funeral, North Korea is upping its verbal assaults on the South, warning Seoul that it will pay a huge price by “sticking a knife in the chest of the people.” And by “sticking a knife in the chest of the people,” it means barring South Koreans (except for the parties of the former First Lady and the Hyundai chairwoman) from traveling to the North to pay their respects to the late Kim Jong-il and banning South Korean leftist groups from setting up shrines to Kim in the South.

Police in Seoul have prevented one civic group from setting up an altar near City Hall and removed another altar set up by students at Seoul National University. Personally, I could do without the police telling radical lefties what to do, but alas, the National Security Law says differently.

Interestingly, the North Korean media ran nine stories related to the South Korean condolence debate, noting calls by some South Korean media and political groups to send an official delegation to Pyongyang.

KJI and North Korea’s road to ruin

Nicholas Eberstadt—as far as I know, the only non-state entity to carpet bomb Cheong Wa Dae—looks at North Korea’s road to ruin under Kim Jong-il. Read it in its entirety: here’s just a sample:

Kim Jong Il did not immiserate his country in a fit of absent-mindedness. Quite the contrary: It was a direct but incidental consequence of a grand strategy he relentlessly pursued.

His father, the Great Leader, may have been a monster — it was he who launched the Korean War and perfected the North Korean police-terror state, among other things — but he nevertheless retained a measure of peasant cunning and pragmatism: Kim Il Sung recognized that people would work harder and better if you paid them more, for example, and he wrote as much in his collected “Works.”

The Dear Leader, by contrast, would have none of this. In his ideologized worldview, granting North Korean workers material incentives and blandishments would risk fueling “egotism” and “bourgeois thinking” — potentially lethal afflictions for North Korea’s pristine socialist system. From Kim Jong Il’s standpoint, the survival of the juche (self-reliance) state depended on extirpating — or better yet, completely preventing — any such noxious attitudes in the population under his command.

“Reform” and “opening,” he proclaimed, were regime slayers for socialist states.

MUST READ: Andrei Lankov on post-KJI North Korea

In Foreign Affairs, Andrei Lankov discusses the future of North Korea after KJI. Not to spoil it, but here’s the conclusion (HT to Sei Chong):

North Korea’s ruling class also believes that it needs nuclear weapons for diplomatic purposes. Pyongyang does not want starve its population to death; Kim Jong Il probably would have preferred to see North Koreans alive and well, but he sacrificed the common people to maintain stability. And since modernization would undermine that stability, the regime cannot pursue it. The only way for North Korea’s elite to stay afloat is to squeeze aid from the outside world, and the nuclear program allows it to do so. With nuclear weapons as its blackmail, North Korea has managed to attract far more international attention and aid than countries of similar size and per capita GDP.

Under these circumstances, Kim Jong Un is likely to continue his father’s legacy. But that doesn’t mean that the current system will continue indefinitely. No country with a hyper-centralized, Stalinist economy has remained efficient for longer than two or three decades. It is difficult to see how or why North Korea could disprove this rule. The regime may maintain its centrally planned economy and political repression for now, but this will only prolong the country’s unsustainable stagnation. The longer North Korea’s rulers holds on to power, the greater the gap between Pyongyang and its neighbors will be — creating greater potential for future turmoil.

And sadly, I don’t think there’s a damn thing we can do about it except watch.

More Kim Jong-il links

– This just in: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is still dead. And here are the pictures of his body lying in state to prove it. One of my work colleagues wants to know what’s up with Kim Jong-un’s hair.

– Victor Cha asks if North Korea is set to become China’s newest province:

But even as Beijing sticks close to its little Communist brother, there are intense debates within its leadership about whether the North is a strategic liability. It was one thing to back a hermetic but stable regime under Kim Jong-il; it will be harder to underwrite an untested leadership. For Xi Jinping, expected to become China’s president over the next year, the first major foreign policy decision will be whether to shed North Korea or effectively adopt it as a province.

All indications are that Beijing will pursue the latter course, in no small part because of a bias among its leadership to support the status quo, rather than to confront dramatic change. And yet “adopting” North Korea could be dramatic in itself. China may go all in, doling out early invitations and new assistance packages to the young Mr. Kim, conditioning them on promises of economic reform.

While some observers hope that Kim Jong-il’s death will unleash democratic regime change, China will work strongly against that possibility, especially if such efforts receive support from South Korea or the United States. Given that Beijing has the only eyes inside the North, Washington and Seoul could do little in response.

– Here are some scenarios for Kim Jong-un’s future, none of which are pretty. My money is still on “more of the same,” though.

– According to AEI’s Lara Crouch, there are some wildcards in Kim Jong-un’s succession (HT to reader). I like the AEI—we’re big fans of Nick Eberstadt, as you well know—and I don’t mean to be snobbish, but I do hesitate to accept North Korea prognostication from somebody who seems to think Jong Il, Jong Un, etc. are family names.

– For fans of Christine Ahn, here she is at Democracy Now! discussing North Korea and the death of Kim Jong-il (HT to matheus). Well, I’m sure she’s a lovely woman in person…

– Listen to One Free Korea‘s Joshua Stanton at Coffee & Markets (HT to Hume’s Bastard)

– After you’ve made your way through Christine and Joshua, listen to the WSJ’s Evan Ramstad discuss what’s next for North Korea at CNBC.

– At the Cato Institute’s blog, Doug Bandow thinks we should—sit down for this—withdraw from South Korea:

Washington can do little during this process. The United States should maintain its willingness to talk with the North. American officials also should engage Beijing over the future of the peninsula, exploring Chinese concerns and searching for areas of compromise. For instance, Washington should pledge that there would be no American bases or troops in a reunited Korea, which might ease Beijing’s fears about the impact of a North Korean collapse.

Most important, the Obama administration should not rush to “strengthen” the alliance with South Korea in response to uncertainty in the North. The Republic of Korea is well able to defend itself. It should take the steps necessary to deter North Korean adventurism and develop its own strategies for dealing with Pyongyang. America should be withdrawing from an expensive security commitment which no longer serves U.S. interests.

Kim Jong-il imposed unimaginable hardship on the North Korean people. However, what follows him could be even worse if an uncertain power struggle breaks down into armed conflict. Other than encourage Beijing to use its influence to bring the Kim dynasty to a merciful end, the United States can—and should—do little more than watch developments in the North.

Amen on the “doing little more than watch developments in the North” part. At least for now.

– As stated earlier, I was not in favor of expressing condolences to the North. Being an optimist, I don’t rule out the possibility of something much worse following him. Still, he did no good in this world, and plenty of bad. The Unification Ministry’s condolence statement was OK, I guess, as was the decision to let a few individuals go to the North privately. I suppose I understand why the government also decided not to light the big Xmas tree on the DMZ, too, but it does leave a bad taste in my mouth.

– So where is this from? The KCNA? The Rodong Shinmun?

Yet, the common denominator to all of them was that Kim was a resolute and iconoclastic decision-maker with intense powers of concentration. These qualities were manifested in a dilettante personality, with Kim spending all night working and demonstrating talents and interest in literature and the arts. North Korea scholars are unanimous that the three forces behind his grasp on power as a successor to Kim Il-sung were a combination of his father’s determination, his own ability, and his election by veteran partisans.

Nope, it’s the Hankyoreh! (HT to reader)

– Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these are the “pro-unification” people. I’d have linked to the Chosun Ilbo’s editorial, but it looks like they are still haven’t gotten around to translate it.

– According to the Yomiuri Shimbun (via the Seoul Shinmun), North Korea is not comfortable with foreigners—including Russians and Chinese—in their country right now. One Chinese who went to North Korea on business said foreigners were being thrown off trains for not crying.

– Finally, Ampontan comments on all the crying in North Korea:

Finally, taking all the responses as a whole, there is the unmistakable whiff of an attitude of cultural superiority as they watch others make a spectacle out of themselves. Civilized people are more seemly in their grief. There’s quite a lot of that sort of thing on the Web these days, by the way — couched in intellectualism and scientific detachment, of course.

Well, I think that’s partially true, especially when you read some comments about the public displays of grief in South Korea. To be honest, though, it’s not just Westerners who find the North Korean behavior odd—a lot of South Koreans find it weird, too. Many cried when Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun died, but it just wasn’t the same as we’re seeing in Pyongyang (to be fair, though, Park Chung-hee did get the crying treatment in 1979). Barbara Demick does a good job explaining the North Korean crying:

How does a whole crowd fake tears? Barbara Demick, in “Nothing to Envy,” her book on the ravaged social landscape of North Korea, collected accounts of how ordinary North Koreans set themselves to just that task after the death of Kim’s father, Kim Il-sung, back in 1994: “It was like a staring contest. Stare. Cry. Stare. Cry,” a student told her. “Eventually, it became mechanical. The body took over where the mind left off and suddenly he was really crying. He felt himself falling to his knees, rocking back and forth, sobbing just like everyone else.”
“Those waiting in line would jump up and down, pound their heads, collapse into theatrical swoons, rip their clothes and pound their fists at the air in futile rage. The men wept as copiously as the women.

The histrionics of grief took on a competitive quality. Who could weep the loudest? The mourners were egged on by the TV news, which broadcast hours and hours of people wailing, grown men with tears rolling down their cheeks, banging their heads on trees, sailors banging their heads agains the masts of their ships, pilots weeping in the cockpit, and so on. These scenes were interspersed with footage of lightning and pouring rain. It looked like Armageddon.”

Kim Jong-il links

I’m really quite busy right now, but here’s a couple of links to keep you going:

– China seems to have moved rather quickly to “officialize” Kim Jong-un.

– OK, that was weird.

– Here’s the Chosun Ilbo’s editorial on KJI’s death. And here’s the Hankyoreh’s.

– Yes, Kim’s death would seem to be an all-round intelligence failure, although to be fair, North Korea’s really, really good at keeping these things secret. Does anyone know if China even knew?

– Personally, a supermarket wouldn’t be at the top of my list of the last worldly places I’d want to visit before shuffling off the mortal coil.

– The Wall Street Journal doesn’t think this is the time to go easy on North Korea.

– North Korea prognosticating is a fool’s game even in the best of times, but if forced to offer an opinion, I’d say Hahm Chaibong probably has it right:

Despite its shattered economy and shaky succession process, North Korea will continue to trudge along. A totalitarian system engineered by a perverse mastermind will likely serve its new master well. Its giant neighbor, China, whose path of development over the past 20 years could not be more different than North Korea’s, continues to lend its support to this anachronistic regime out of a logic all its own.

The world will have to continue to suffer through a regime whose durability continues to baffle. North Korea’s long suffering people will have to continue their “arduous march.” Northeast Asia’s otherwise booming economies will have to endure for some time to come a regime whose threat to the peace and prosperity of the region is matched only by its unpredictability.

– Well, at least Victor Cha thinks this is a big moment…

Way to spoil a good morning

Was having a great morning—traffic was light coming to work, Ron Paul is leading in Iowa, and Kim Jong-il is still dead.

The the Kyunghyang’s editorial board needs to spoil it all by calling on the government to offer condolences to North Korea

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