Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Once and a Future Supreme Leader

Tapestry of King Arthur 
Is taking foreign visitors captive the way that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, earns his battle stripes (“Another American Citizen Is Arrested in North Korea,” NYT, 11/20/13)? Is it the way he carries on the divine right of Kings, North Korean style. Is it the way he claims his throne and his position as the rightful heir to the glory of his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung? Is taking foreign visitors hostage and ignoring the pleas of major powers the way the reputations of the Eisenhowers and MacArthurs of North Korea are created? Maybe this David versus Goliath strategy is how Kim Jong-un attained the credibility to oust the uncle, (“North Korea’s Leader Is Said to Oust Uncle in Power Play,” NYT, 12/3/13), Jang Song thaek, who was appointed to look after him, when he took over in he wake of his father’s death, only two years ago. Jang Song-thaek according to the Times report is the husband of Kim Kyong-hee who was the sister of Kim Jong-il and the Kim Jong-un’s aunt. Whether he called her Auntie Kyong was not reported in the Times piece, though the piece did speculate on the fact that the fall of Jang Song-thaek rather than bolstering Kim Jong-un’s power could destabilize him further and cause him to have to up the ante to maintain his power.  “Some analysts…worry that Mr. Kim might resort to militaristic provocations to divert attention from domestic instability.” The most interesting thing about the whole matter is that it conforms to Santayana’s famous saying, “those whose cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As the Times commented, “Mr. Jang would not be the first No. 2 or the first uncle of the Northern Korean leader to lose power. Kim Jong-il plotted a purge of his own powerful uncle to solidify control after the death of his father, the North’s founding president, Kim Il-sung.”

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