Kim Jong Il is dead

December 18, 2011 • 8:48 pm

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. 

For a horrifying look at this cloistered country, read Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag.

Watching the few videos of North Korea by journalists who have reported (under severe restrictions) from inside that country, you realize that the beleaguered, sick, and hungry inhabitants really do think that they’re living in a paradise, for that’s what they’re constantly told, and they never learn otherwise since they have virtually no exposure to the outside world.

Over the years, I must have seen every YouTube video on North Korea, for I’m fascinated by the world’s most isolated country and its totalitarian government. “Welcome to North Korea,” which I’ve embedded below, is one of the best documentaries:

The VICE guide to North Korea, in three parts (part 1 here) is equally intriguing and horrifying, but leavened by the hippy-ish narrator. And the quality of the video is far better.

42 thoughts on “Kim Jong Il is dead

  1. I just read it on the news. And I am wondering what the BBC were thinking when they put the following at the bottom of their news page: “Are you in North Korea? Please send us your comments using the form below.” Right.

    I’m also fascinated by the country. You probaby saw it already but “North Korea: A day in the life” by Pieter Fleury was very interesting. And so was the book “Nothing to envy” by Barbara Demick.

    1. The youngest son Kim Jong Un, is supposed to be in line to take the reins but he has two older brothers and an older sister to take into account, which sounds like a recipe for unrest if not civil war to me.

  2. That does look like a good documentary. Thanks for that.

    Here’s hoping his death can be some kind of catalyst for a better future for the North Korean people, who have endured much suffering.

    1. Sadly if it is going to get better for the North Koreans it is probably going to get a lot worse first. Worse as in war, civil or otherwise.

      I really can’t envisage a peaceful transition to even a non-antagonistic communist state let alone a democracy. There’s simply too many people inside the North Korean government & military with a vested interest in the status quo.

      As we’ve seen recently with Julian Baggini’s revelation that religious folks really do believe that crap, many people in NK really do believe they’re living in a paradise. They’re not going to accept change and they’re armed. Heavily armed.

      1. Hitchens often highlighted the theocratic character of the North Korean regime.

        In ‘god Is Not Great’ he points out that “North Korea is alone in having a dead man for a head of state: Kim Jong Il is the head of the party and the army but the presidency is held in perpetuity by his deceased father, which makes the country a necrocracy or a mausolocracy as well as a regime that is only one figure short of a Trinity.”

        I’m disappointed that Christopher isn’t alive to see the Trinity completed by Kim Jong-Un, whom the regime is apparently calling “The Great Successor”. Though, in this case, he’d take little pleasure in the vindication of his assessment.

          1. Dear Leader Kim Jong Il,

            It won’t work, you know. You can try the chase all you like, but you simply can’t bring North Korea to Hitch. He simply won’t have it!


          2. Does Valaclav Pavel fit in, anywhere? He died after Hitch and before Il.
            Funny, just last night, sitting shiva with another glass of JWB, I watched a video in which a debate moderator related Hitch’s answer to the question, “How would you like to be introduced?” The answer: “St. Christopher.” LOL

    1. Oh dear lard, he is more evil than I suspected. I hope he hires Dieter B as a permanent minstrel in his castle.

    2. With those guys as his favorite band, it seems rather certain he would need a bodyguard against bullying. Just sayin’!

  3. I once looked in on Pyongyang using Google Maps; I was curious about that hotel, the Ryugyong, that’s been under construction for the last 24 years. The city looks almost as if it’s abandoned. There is very little traffic and few signs of human activity. There is, of course, no street view.

    I can try to imagine how dispirited the North Korean people must be, but I’m sure it would come far short of the reality. If the totalitarian regime should fall, it will take generations to rebuild that long-stifled spirit.

    1. Imagine their shock when one day they are able to visit South Korea – it’s got to happen eventually surely. Waking up to find that the paradise you thought you lived in is in fact hell, would be very confronting.The East Germans had a hard enough time of it and they were not nearly so oppressed.

      1. I read an article, I think on the BBC News Website, a few months ago about the massive culture shock that North Korean refugees undergo when the arrive in the south.

        The South Koreans setup an organization to assist the newly arrived but even so most refugees never really adjust. They tend to live together with other refugees and they do feel looked down on by the South Koreans.

  4. Wow! This is giving me flashbacks of Ceausescu’s Romania, although, I must admit, the Kims were several orders of magnitude worse than the Romanian dictator and his evil wife.

    I’m sure Ceausescu envisioned something similar for his passing away but fortunately his death was a real poster case for the “Sic Semper Tyrannis” gallery.

  5. “If the totalitarian regime should fall,…”

    The reason the US and the South have been propping it up since at least the 80s and very likely before then is that the regime there isn’t going to fall if it goes. It’s going to explode.

    And most of the population of the South lives inside of effective range of the North’s medium range artillery.

    Nobody who is really informed on the subject thinks that we could win that war if they choose to start it today. And there is a very real chance that it will start soon.

    Even “winning” kills millions of people and destroys an important economy.

    The problem is that none of his sons are strong enough to rule outright as he did. It all depends on what faction of the army takes over in the next few days and if they decide to continue living off of aid from the South and the US or to start a war.

    In the cruel and cold calculations of that situation it’s a choice of letting the people of North Korea suffer or killing a large percentage of the population of the South. There is no happy answer to this question.

    1. I always understood it was China holding it up because they really didn’t want a rich capitalist Korea right there on their border.

      Even without a war, South Korea is not looking forward to getting stuck with the bill for reconstruction. It’ll make East Germany look like a bargain.

  6. Another good documentary is “A State of Mind” (2004), about children training for the mass games. It was filmed with government permission, so you know you’re seeing only the most fortunate North Koreans. Keeping that in mind, it is quite fascinating.

    The U.S. and South Korea have hardly been propping up North Korea, but it is definitely true that both (and Japan as well) are quite concerned about what would and could happen if things fall apart.

  7. I remember when his train made a grand tour of Russia. Reportedly he loaded it up with Baltika beer in St. Pete, as a gift from Russia.

    As tribute goes, not too bad!

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