North Korea’s official government-controlled media announced that the country’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-Il, died on Saturday at age 69 from “physical and mental overwork.” A teary-eyed TV anchorwoman claimed, “It is the biggest loss by the party…and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness…[but we must] change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties.”
Those “difficulties” can be traced back to at least the assumption of power by Kim Il-Sung in 1945 as he established a Stalinist totalitarian system in the country and enforced it with iron rule until his death in 1994. His son, Kim Jong-Il assumed the mantle of dictator after having been groomed for the position for years prior to his father’s death.
A “cult of personality” was firmly established by the “Eternal President” (a title given to Kim Il-Sung at his funeral service) and extended by his son: Portraits of them hang in every building and every North Korean wears a Kim Il Sung lapel pin.
North and South Korea are still officially at war following cessation of hostilities of the Korean War in 1953. The North, under the “Dear Leader’s” control, has continued provocations and militarization. In 1983, he ordered the bombing that killed 17 South Korean officials who were visiting Burma (now Myanmar), the bombing of a Korean Air Liner that killed 115 people in 1987, as well as other numerous provoca6tions.
He continued to press forward the country’s nuclear development, with its first test of a nuclear bomb in October 2006 followed by another in 2009. President Bush accurately described Kim in 2005 as a tyrant: “Kim Il-Jong is a dangerous person. He’s a man who starves his people. He’s got huge concentration camps. And…there is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon.”
Massive starvation is a continuing fact of life in North Korea. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, its support for Kim’s regime ended, resulting in the starvation of between 900,000 and 2 million inhabitants.
With improved satellite mapping technology, North Korea can be seen for the economic and political disaster that it is. Shortly after its first nuclear test, a satellite took a night picture of the Korean peninsula here, providing a stark and revealing glimpse of the darkness of the country compared to South Korea. Other satellite pictures illustrate the slave labor prison camps in the country, currently inhabited by 200,000 individuals and growing in size over time. One hardened observer, Aaron Saena, writing for the Singularity Hub, reviewed the images and said,
No one really knows how bad it is, but it’s much worse than I thought possible. Piecing together information from satellite images and eyewitness accounts, Amnesty International suspects that the horrific concentration camps in North Korea are growing. Some 200,000 people live as slaves—enduring starvation, torture, and rape while performing hard labor. Many die every year, only to be replaced by fresh bodies. Of those that survive, few will ever be released….
Deemed “prisoners,” the victims of North Korea’s political pogroms are interned for the smallest criticisms of the regime of Kim Jong-Il, and when they are carried away their extended families are rounded up as well. This is not genocide, it’s not a war crime, it’s an unending consequence of North Korea’s authoritarian government.
The Sunday Telegraph published an interview with four former citizens who gave cryptic and chilling descriptions of life, and death, in North Korea. Kim Yeong, age 68, told how families are being forced to scour the countryside for wild plants to boil up as soup in a desperate attempt just to stay alive: “People are very poor.… They are going to the mountains to get grasses and weeds to make into soup. Some people are having to eat manure when they cannot get any rice or corn.”
Another interviewed, Mrs. Lee, remembers when things were better: “When I was young, the woods outside my house were so thick you could get lost coming home. But now there is only bare land—even the roots of the trees are gone.” She added:
People who cannot go out to find food, or grow food or do some business to earn money, are already starving to death. When an elderly person misses a meal they get tired or they get sick. They gradually become too weak to get food for themselves…and then they die.
Kim Hua told of the lie of North Korea’s grand experiment in communism, noting that barely one out of every 10 of the country’s factories are operational. Her factory, which makes textile machine parts, is closed on most days and workers are then ordered to work on repairing roads or state buildings, without pay.
And there are the inevitable education/indoctrination classes where the “Great Successor,” Kim Jong-Un is unendingly glorified:
They tell us he’s going to be a great success and is very good at politics, economy and culture. The top leaders have chosen him. Some say that he’s too young, they’re suspicious of whether he can do the work, that he can be successful. But what can anyone do? You have to believe in him, even when you don’t.
The “Great Successor” is making a number of people nervous. As he was just recently named by his father as the next dictator, he hasn’t had time to build up support (politically correct for “murdering his enemies”) among the ruling class and is rumored to be mentored by his uncle in the fine art of ruling with an iron fist. Bruce Klinger, an Asia policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, summed him up: He “is a pale reflection of his father and grandfather. He has not had the decades of grooming and securing of a power base that Jong-Il enjoyed before assuming control from his father. (He) may find it necessary in the future to precipitate a crisis to prove his mettle to other senior leaders or [to] deflect attention from the regime’s failings.”
At present, the “Great Successor” has more than a million troops under his command, many of them stationed across the demilitarized zone from South Korea. The United States has nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, working in conjunction with 700,000 South Korean troops, just waiting for such a crisis to be initiated by Great Successor to allow him to test his “mettle.”
For now, the succession from “Eternal President” to “Dear Leader” to the “Great Successor” is likely to be benign. Zhu Fend, professor of international relations at Peking University, said, “The issue of primary concern now is not whether North Korea will maintain political stability, but what will be the nature of the new political leadership, and what policies will it pursue at home and abroad.”
For those enduring starvation in filthy communist prison camps, such maintenance of “stability” will mean no change in their lives. As Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan,
In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.