By William J. Furney
North Korea, the most isolated country in the world, has leaders who are big on bombastic image but critically short on vital substance. The attention-hungry totalitarian regime loves to splash the donated Chinese cash while parading around missile sites and threatening the world with nuclear strikes while millions of its people go hungry and are starving to death.
There’s almost 25.5 million people on the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula that it shares with the wealthy and progressive South of just over double the amount of people — an economic and technological powerhouse where you’ll find the fastest internet in the world. Up in the cut-off North, it’s a mirror image of nothing, and all the young and corpulent Kim Jong-un can do is carry on the pitiful showmanship of his equally rotund and late father Kim Jong-il, who ate and drank himself into an early grave.
The “Supreme Leader” is no kind of leader at all, and if he was, millions of his downtrodden people, who have no idea how the modern world lives and who go hungry every day, would willingly look up to him instead of being forced to fawn. He’s in some ways like his on-again, off-again bestie Donald Trump: much bluster and stunting and precious little in the way of substantive progress in pretty much anything at all.
Close to half the country — over 10.1 million people — are suffering from “severe food insecurity”, according to an assessment by the UN’s World Food Programme earlier this year, and upwards of 3 million North Koreans are estimated to have died in a famine that ravaged the country in the mid-1990s. But let’s not spend money on food and developing methods to ensure its security when we can have fat missiles that will make the world look up to us.
Trump thought his Pyongyang “Rocket Man” would come in from the cold and finally give up his attention-seeking ways with his weapons-of-mass-destruction toys. But the overstuffed man-boy in the frigid North is nothing if not petulant and given to throwing nuclear tantrums to get his peevish way — oblivious to the fact that much of the Western world, and a large swathe of Southeast Asia and beyond, undoubtably hold the view that the 35-year-old with the flat-top and severe hardo and penchant for dressing in Mao gear is clinging to a relic of the monumental past as the world moves on: it’s safe to say he has zero global respect and looking at him in photoshoot action, you don’t know whether to laugh out loud or run for the hills.
This week the murderous Kim — who has ordered the executions of at least 12 officials in his government since he came to power in 2011 (reportedly including one by the bizarre method of flamethrower), and is also blamed for the assination of his half-brother Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport — climbed up on a horse for the second time in as many months to go for a jaunt up Mt Paektu, an active volcano that’s considered “sacred”; and this time he had a bunch of military brass along for the ride, and his young and fragile-looking wife. He’s clearly obsessing about the wild bravado of Vladimir Putin and his bare-chested fishing and riding antics that has warmed the fearsome Russian leader to his countrypeople’s hearts. Hey, if strongman Vlad can do it, why not little Kim?
All so “highly symbolic”, the breathless media reported of the equine adventure, as a senior North Korean official revived Kim’s archaic “dotard” description of Trump, stopping short of resurrecting the previous “mentally deranged US dotard” moniker the brash boss had previously slapped on the foul-mouthed American president — who at one time vowed to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on the tiny, impoverished nation for its unceasing missile tests that rattle the world.
Maybe by gallivanting up the fiery mountain on horseback to try and show the world that he means business, Kim himself was about to blow his top.
His de facto communist country — officially operating under the guiding Juche, or “self-reliance” ideology — is for all intents a failed state that can’t look after its citizens yet is insistent on developing, and potentially launching, nuclear weapons at the prosperous South, Japan or any other country that gets in its furious crosshairs. The US is alarmed because it says the North now has long-range capabilities, notably its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile that’s believed to have a range of over 13,000 kilometers, and so could strike at the heart of US power, in Washington DC (a flight across the Pacific Ocean to the American capital that’s just under 11,000 kilometres).
“The message is buckle up: it’s going to be a big year for us next year,” one North Korea observer said. “Not a year of diplomacy and summitry, but rather of national strength,” John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, told the Reuters news agency. If that’s the case, Mr Trump — who may or may not survive impeachment proceedings — had better strap himself in, because it might turn into a very rough ride indeed.
We may not even have to wait that long. Yesterday the North carried out what it described as a “very important test” at is Sohae launch site it had promised the US it would close. “The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future,” the KCNA state news agency said, referring to the country by its acronym.
Almost immediately, the North Korean ambassador to the UN, Kim Song, seemed to suggest that denuclearisation talks with Washinton were over. “We do not need to have lengthy talks with the US now, and denuclearisation is already gone out of the negotiating table,” he said in a statement. So it’s full-steam
Where does all this leave Donald and his globe-trotting efforts to bring about peace on the Korean Peninsula, after repeated high-stakes meetings with Kim that he swiftly declared had been successful and would result in an end to nuclear weapons-development in North Korea and its ceaseless ballistic-missiles tests?
Trump has more pressing matters to deal with: he’s in a real battle for his political life, and if he does survive impeachment proceedings during a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate that’s expected in January, his next most important agenda item is getting reelected in November. He is one who certainly does not want to hear the words “You’re fired!”
That leaves all next year for Kim to stir it all right up, and keep his name in the news, while his people continue to starve — just how the brutal little thug likes it.