Monday, September 29, 2014

Discomfort in North Korea: The Missing Kim and the Downside of the Job

Saying something strange is going on in North Korea is always an understatement. The leadership of the upper half of the peninsula has, since 1948, appeared to be on the most extended acid trip in the history of the world. How else would you describe a system of government which is a spectacular oxymoron--a Stalinist monarchy.

At this moment, no matter what the North Korean "press" says, there appears something is amiss north of the DMZ. The third Kim to run the place since its founding has not shown up in public for three weeks. Questions really started to fly last Thursday when Kim Jong un missed a parliament session for the first time since he took over. On the same day North Korean TV aired a documentary showing footage of an overweight and limping Kim touring a tile plant in August. According to an AP report the narrator told rapt viewers, "Our Marshal continues to light the path for the people like a flame despite his discomfort."

The revelation has thrown Pyongyang watchers into a frenzy. Rumors are sailing through the air like Frisbees on a college oval in the spring. They range from the possible--things like gout, high blood pressure, and diabetes--to the utterly bizarre--a massive and prolonged addiction to cheese, or an out of control taste for fried chicken and beer.

Given the limp the smart money should be on gout, or at least some sort of foot infection made worse by Type II diabetes. Let's face it, Kim is a real pudge and therefore a prime candidate for both diseases. And honestly, if you were a North Korean doctor would you have the guts to tell a guy who reportedly fed his uncle to a pack of savage dogs, he can't eat and drink anything he wants?

Of course there is another possibility, but no one is willing to go there yet. That is the army, which Kim depends on for his power, decided he needed to go. A couple of years ago he removed Ri Yong ho from the command of it and according to the AP,  at least one South Korean newspaper reported Ri didn't go quietly into that good night. In fact the unverified account says Ri was killed during a gun battle when troops loyal to him and not Kim opened fire on the people who came to arrest him. Whatever the case might be, the former commander hasn't been seen anywhere since 2012.

Who knows? Maybe some people held a grudge, or had other motives and were waiting for just the right moment to drop the hammer. If they did, they'd have to do it quietly because for 66 years the North Koreans have had it drilled into them night and day the Kim dynasty could do no wrong and all of them were and are tantamount to holy. No one with a functioning brain would show up on North Korean television and out of the blue, say something like, this latest version of Kim was a corrupt and decadent fool, not to mention such a vile traitor to the people he had to be removed from power. Only George Orwell's totalitarian state could make a paradigm shift like that and he was writing fiction.

Indeed, you have to ease your way into it. Discomfort becomes something more serious, then comes the great tragedy of his passing away, and finally a flower festooned funeral for the ages. After all, Hitler claimed Rommel died of war wounds and gave him a hero's burial. The truth was the Field Marshal had been implicated in the plot to kill Der Fuehrer and had to commit suicide in order to protect his family from the Gestapo.

Nearly everyone believes, Kim Jong un's old man was desperately ill for a couple of years before his shade drifted off to sit on the edge of Mt. Paektu's crater. Right up until his death there was absolutely no indication from the North Korean propaganda machine he had ever run even a slight fever.

That is why the word "discomfort" becomes significant when it comes from a media which makes Herr Goebbels' propaganda machine seem downright fair and balanced.

The fat boy is probably in his bed tonight, his big toe aching like someone has slammed it with a heavy hammer. Even if that is the case, when you are Caesar, you can never sleep easily, or long and your dreams are always filled with visions of those you trust wielding knives and giving you, the look.

It is, in the final analysis, the down side of the job.


sic vita est


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