Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Kim Jong-un’s Social Anxiety Disorder

A recent Times editorial (“North Korea’s Horrors,” 5/18/15) points out two recent incidences where hyperbole has fueled accounts of the horrors of current regime in the DPRK, led by its brash young leader and film critic, Kim Jong-un (“Kim Jong-un and the Auteur School,” The Screaming Pope, 12/22/14). The first rumor, according to the Times had Kim Jong-un feeding his uncle Jang Sung-taek “to a pack of dogs.” A story in The Guardian made a similar point, “Story about Kim Jong-un’s uncle fed to dogs originates with satirist," 1/6/14. This is almost as comforting as finding out that the latest accusation which, according to the Times, involved having “the minister of the armed forces blasted to pieces with an antiaircraft gun, purportedly, among other things, for dozing off while Mr. Kim spoke,” was also apocryphal. For instance the Times editorial points out that “South Korea is now saying that Gen. Hyon Yong-choi was purged, not probably killed.” The point of the Times piece is that even if prominent officials are simply being executed by firing squad, it’s not a good thing and goes on to speculate about Kim Jong-un that “one explanation is that he is unstable and threatened, and needs to fuel the terror that his power rests on.” Fair enough, but let’s cut the Supreme Leader a little slack. How many times have you been snubbed at a cocktail party and fantasized about feeding a dismissive person to dogs? How many times have you contemplated turning an antiaircraft gun or worse on someone who hasn’t returned your Email inquiry or phone call? When we feel small and powerless in the face of an unfriendly superpower or person, we all engage in these kinds of fantasies. The DSM-5 lists such symptoms under the category of social anxiety disorder. And if we were to be armchair psychoanalysts we might even wager that these anxieties might derive from having to live up to the reputations of his powerful father Kim Jong-il (who kidnapped the South Korean film star Shin Sang-ok) and grandfather Kim Il-sung whose founding of the dynasty might be where all his problems started in the first place.

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