Friday, March 09, 2018

The Misunderstood, Utterly Charming Kim Jong Un

"As a leader of a rogue state, he is a tough case to deal with."
"He has the guts but also is very strong in details. He is ambitious and has a desire to win."
Kim Sung-han, former vice-foreign minister, South Korea

"Either Kim Jong Un's New Year's resolution to be a nice guy is real or his smiles and soft messages for Seoul are a ploy for buying time and money to perfect  his own nuclear posture review."
Lee Sung-yoon, Korea expert, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

"We see him increasingly self-confident about what he is doing."
"If we look at what has happened in the past couple months, it was Kim Jong Un who took the initiative in each key moment."
Koh Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies, Dongguk University, Seoul

"He wanted to show his confidence and stability in his power."
"But the economy is his last challenge in quieting the people's discontent and establishing his leadership, and he knows that he cannot improve the economy without improving ties with South Korea and the United States."
Yang Moo-jin, professor, University of North Korean Studies, Seoul


Perhaps one of the classes young Kim took when he studied at a Swiss university was how to charm doubters, how to throw them off the scent of his proven character as an oppressor par excellence of his people -- a tyrant whose dedication to his own greatness as the supreme authority of a benighted nation, never hesitating to order the death of relatives, state officials or anyone he perceives as challenging any of his initiatives -- made him a master of deception.

How else analyze the fact that academics who study the North and are intimately familiar with its history and the implacable dynasty that has ruled it as an intransigent, threatening and hostile country skilled at exuding a fearful aura of snarling belligerence, still hold this psychopath in awe for the power he wields and his penchant for swatting away reactions from truly powerful state heads as mere nuisances, refusing to be intimidated by sanctions harming his economy. His answer to which has been the arrogant flaunting of ever more powerful offensive weapons.

Sending ballistic missiles in a trajectory over the Sea of Japan, boasting that his advanced-technology intercontinental ballistic missiles can reach Hawaii, and he has the miniaturized nuclear warheads to tip them with may reflect his narcissistic self confidence while failing to endear him to his neighbours who fail to appreciate that they are being threatened by an upstart malicious little brute with no interior constraints. Despite which the South, which stands to lose the most in any possible mutual war footing, seeks to ingratiate itself with Kim.

South Korea's aspiration to reunification is a dream that refuses to be snuffed out as one regime after another optimistically imagines that the North will one day agree to join the South, set aside its weapons of mass destruction and opt instead for the wealth that could be theirs following the capitalist model of South Korea and its robust trade resulting from putting its industrious technological expertise into consumer products the international community is eager to access.

North Korea has such a long running trick-and-treat relationship with its neighbours and in particular with the world's sheriff, the United States, each effort to convince its leaders-in-sequence to forego nuclear plans in favour of growing its economy with the help of richer states rewarding it for agreeing to set aside its belligerence and devote its industries to advancing its peacetime interests; first agreeing and then reneging, yet always rewarded with new initiatives where the same scenario plays out over and over again, accomplishing nothing.

The South Korean delegation that travelled to North Korea to dialogue with Kim Jong Un in the hopes of opening up a new era of mutual agreeableness found a smiling, benign Kim prepared to greet them and to palaver. Entranced by the transformation, the South Koreans see someone they can do 'business' with, someone presumably amenable to talks with the United States, ready to set aside the threatening demeanour that challenged the world community just a few short months ago, agog that this Kim is so different from the other Kim.

The negotiators from the South who were ushered into Pyongyang's Workers' Party headquarters to meet with Kim and speak amicably like one big happy family for four hours, were described as "reverential", as though the crimes which this man is known to have committed, from sinking a  South Korean vessel with all aboard, to starving his people so he can fund his engineers' efforts at advancing the arms toys he is so fond of, to terrorizing his neighbours with his experimental missiles seems all forgotten.

As though they were in the august presence of a sage, a brilliant tactician, not a mind uncluttered with the irritating presence of principle and morals, consumed with self-aggrandizement and challenging the world to recognize his status as a world power, and they stand prepared to do just that. China must be of two minds; a trifle concerned, yet on the other hand, pleased enough with its little client state which it can use as a cudgel against the West when the mood strikes.

South Korea's Moon vows to bolster defenses while talking peace with North

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