Requiem for a Dictator: Kim Jong-il

There are places on the face of the earth where, although the sun may occasionally shine, they’ve never seen a ray of light.  There’s a cold dry Siberian no man’s land that extends east from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific coast, where small villages no one’s ever heard of, with names no one can pronounce, exist in lonely isolation.

Vyatskoye, Russia, in eastern Siberia is one of those villages.

When Kim Jong-il took in his first breath in 1941, it was of the frosty air of Vyatskoye.  His father, Kim Il-sung, was captain in the Soviet Red Army of a battalion of Korean and Chinese guerrillas stationed there.  Legend has it, upon his first gasp, the coldness instantly chilled over his infant mind, body, and soul.  To his death last Friday, they were never to thaw again.

There is something curiously fitting that destiny selected this moment for Kim Jong-il to step into the world.  No doubt, things were a little up in the cool air at the time.  The prospect that Germany and Japan could take over the Eurasian continent was still a real possibility.  Hitching Korea’s future to the coattails of Russia and China must have been the rational thing for the elder Kim to do.  For the younger Kim, this decision eventually led to his absolute power and rule over his North Korean countrymen.

His Lasting Testament

Unlike his father, Kim Jong-il was not a true believer in Marxist political theory.  Nonetheless, he was a true believer in his greatness and authority.  In fact, several years ago North Korea’s constitution was amended to refer to him implicitly as the “supreme leader.”

By the time he officially took control of the nation’s reigns, following his father’s death in 1994, it was wildly obviously that a state directed economy was inferior to a free market economy.  The Soviet Union had already collapsed under its commandeering weight and China had, in practice, given up the experiment.  The most compelling evidence of its failings, however, was clear for all to see…a gander over the southern border at Seoul’s rapid growth and rise in living standards unequivocally demonstrated this fact.

Any man of sound mind and conscious emotion would have thrown in the towel and allowed his country’s people to make something for themselves.  But for Kim Jong-il it was never about improving the lives of the citizenry; it was always about increasing his power and authority.  The best way to do that, of course, was by expanding the military.

When the famine hit in the mid-1990s, and hundreds of thousands of people starved, Kim Jong-il directed the nation’s treasure into nuclear weapons.  Rather than open up North Korea and allow for free exchange, he pursued a “Military-First” policy to strengthen and reinforce his rule.

Conceivably, in Kim Jong-il’s twisted mind, and despite a continued dependency on foreign aid for food, he was furthering his father’s Juche (self-reliance) revolution.  Sadly, for a third of the children stunted by malnutrition, they’ll be a lasting testament to his destructive greatness.

Requiem for a Dictator: Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-il unquestionably wanted to be considered a world leader.  By all accounts he radically missed the mark.  Above the entirety of his cruel policies, his peculiar curiosities may offer the most instructive glimpse into his cold mind.

The short, dumpy statured, fluffy haired man embodied the caricature of an autocratic dictator.  His appearance was sordid.  His behaviors were too.

When he wasn’t lapping up shark fin soup he was busy watching James Bond, Friday the 13th, and Rambo movies in the amiable company of his young pleasure girls.  When that didn’t fully satisfy him, he sucked down an abundance of cognac and French wine…and chain smoked fag cigarettes.

According to the North Korean state media Kim Jong-il typically shot three or four hole-in-ones per round of golf.  His official biography asserts he composed six operas.  And even more noteworthy, he’s referred to himself as an internet expert.  This nonsense was all part of his elaborate personality cult, which deified him to school children and made his countrymen believe he had the magic ability to control the weather based on his mood.

Yet, despite his vast array of special talents and sacrosanct personae, he was not able to cheat death…his cold heart from Vyatskoye finally quit on him.

Jim Morrison once aptly remarked that, “No one here gets out alive.”

In death, Kim Jong-il will be granted what will likely be the uncomfortable occasion of meeting his maker.

May he rest in hell.


MN Gordon
for Economic Prism

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