Monday, February 13, 2012


North Korean politics is like a soap opera if one follows Choe Sang-Hun’s accounts in the Times. According to Choe Sang-Hun the recently deceased Kim Jong-il suffered from an inferiority complex (“To Sell a New Leader, North Korea Finds a Mirror Is Handy,” NYT, 2/1/12).“He indicated that his homely, pear-shaped looks were loathed by many North Koreans (he once called himself ‘an ugly midget’), according to South Korean who met him.” Apparently Kim Jong-il’s son and chosen successor, Kim Jong-un, bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather Kim Il-sung, a charismatic and good-looking figure who is revered by North Koreans as the liberator of their country. Looks-wise, Kim Jong-il missed the boat. But according to Sang-Hun “Kim Jong-il was a master propagandist who directed several movies. His last work may been casting Kim Jong-un as a successor who inherited his father’s policy but his grandfather’s face.” To add to the drama Kim Jong-un has an uncle, Jang Song-taek who sounds like an eminence grise and a jealous exiled step brother Kim Jong-nam, waiting for Kim Jong-un to slip up. As you can see there are Shakespearean overtones here too, if we look at Jang Song-taek as a once in a future Horatio and Kim Jong-nam is the Iago in residence at the PRSC (Pyongyang Royal Shakespeare Company). But getting back to the soap, can we wager that Kim Jong-il who had a pretty sophisticated knowledge of Western media would have named his soap
simply Pyongyang, after Dallas. Or would the executives at the network have opted for something like Succession?

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