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North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il has Died

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The poor people of the “hermit nation” of North Korea are weeping and laden with grief following an announcement at noon on December 18, that Kim Jong-il, leader of North Korea, has died unexpectedly of a heart attack while reviewing troop activity. The bulletin from North Korea’s KCNA official news agency indicates Kim succumbed to poor health caused by overwork.

The people of North Korea are poor and hungry. Some work for nothing at all, just small amounts of food and shelter, to survive. Yet they loved the monarch as if he were their father, and are grief-stricken at his loss.

Kim Jong-il rose to power as the General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea in 1948. He became a public figure as the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on July 8, 1994, upon the death of his father, Kim il Sung, who had named him as successor. At that time Kim Jong-il was viewed as a playboy; drinking cognac and enjoying the company of foreign prostitutes. However that impression changed as the charismatic leader showed himself to be an able diplomat and decision maker; able to listen and respond to the positions of others.

North Korea has a long history as a hermit nation, separated on the Korean peninsula from the rest of the world. It has steadfastly refused to recognize the dividing line at the peninsula’s hard-fought 38th parallel, set during the 1950-1953 Korean War, in which thousands of plain-clothes fighters from China came to North Korea’s aid in its struggle against the United Nations and the United States. Today, China remains the North’s greatest ally, supplying food and other necessities to the people of North Korea.

In recent years Kim Jong-il has not hesitated to deny the authority of the 38th Parallel dividing line with force. The December 20th, 2010, shelling of Yeonpyeong Island was aimed at the provocative missile launches from the South, fired during drills held by South Korea and the US in an effort, Kim Jong-il said, to make the 38th parallel line of demarcation seem real and recognized.

We recall also North Korea’s torpedoing and sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette, Cheonan on March 26, 2010, as it sailed in the Yellow Sea, protecting crab fishermen. The sinking took the lives of 46 of Cheonan’s crew. Kim acted because the Cheonan was in waters he considered to be within the jurisdiction of North Korea.

Kim Jong-il showed himself to be a powerful leader. He demanded that his nation of North Korea have a potential to launch nuclear missiles. From his viewpoint that much of the world was hostile to Pyongyang, this may have seemed reasonable. On several occasions in recent years, Kim slowed or stopped development of the nuclear capacity in exchange for food and provisions, but development was always begun again. When the North Korean missile program was in full development, Kim Jong-il didn’t hesitate to announce details of North Korean nuclear missile development to the world.

For the past several years, Kim Jong-un, Kim’s young son, thought to be 27 or 28 now, was groomed to succeed the aging leader. Jong-un is seen to be a quiet and thoughtful man, having studied in Switzerland, and having shown interest in North Korean factories. Jong-un is perceived to be the heir apparent to the Pyongyang leadership, but he will have to work closely with the military authorities, who run a large and capable force. In a parade on military might last year, overseen by Kim Jong-il and his son, missiles on trailers were paraded with thousands of soldiers in uniform marching proudly; on some of the trailers were signs declaring “Down With the United States.” It was clear that the North Korean authorities viewed the United States at that time as their most despised enemy.

Kim Jong-un, in succeeding his father, will work not only with the military, but with Kim Jong-il’s sister and her husband. There has been speculation that her husband, the now dead leader’s brother in law, Chang Sung-taek, may attempt to overthrow Kim Jong-un, and take control of the country. Chang Sung-taek is an educated man, and a negotiator.

South Korea is under a heightened security watch, and will watch closely to see what changes may develop in coming days. China and Russia, close allies of Kim and North Korea, have sent statements of grief. The North Korean leader, who loved to see the people dancing, loved to hear the music, was much loved by his people, and the people of the Asian allied nations.

In an announcement just released at 6:30 AM CST Monday, a short range missile has been fired from North Korea. NPR quotes South Korea’s Yonhap news agency  as saying a short range missile was launched on Monday, the same day the Korean leaders death was announced. At this point it is assumed that the test was a routine drill, unrelated to the death of Kim Jong-il.

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About John Lake

John Lake had a long and successful career in legitimate and musical theater. He moved up into work behind the camera at top motion pictures. He has done a smattering of radio, and television John joined the Blogcritics field of writers owing to a passion for the liberal press, himself speaking out about the political front, and liberal issues. Now the retired Mr. Lake has entered the field of motion picture, television, and video game (now a daily gamer!) critique. His writing is always innovative and immensely readable!
  • Baronius

    “The North Korean leader, who loved to see the people dancing, loved to hear the music, was much loved by his people, and the people of the Asian allied nations.”

    Hilarious, John. I miss that old Pravda writing style, but you’ve nicely captured it. There is so much to say about Kim’s mutilation of North Korea, for example the hundreds of thousands of people in prison camps, or the rampant mental retardation caused by early malnutrition, but you really nailed the Leader’s love of song and dance.

  • Deano

    I’m torn between wondering if the tone of this article is deliberate satire and the somewhat appalling thought that maybe it actually isn’t satirical at all, just a vile regurgitation of uctuous platitudes and press release drivel strung together.

    Phrases like “loved the monarch as if he were their father, and are grief-stricken at his loss” and “the charismatic leader showed himself to be an able diplomat and decision maker”, “Kim Jong-il showed himself to be a powerful leader”.

    This is not a particularly useful, balanced or sensible article. Baronius nailed it, verily Pravda has been reborn on Blogcritics.

  • Costello

    I thought Big Bad Johnny took on all comers yet here he is kissing the backside of a dead dictator.

  • Baronius

    Read Lake’s recent tribute to “the Russian superman with charm and appeal”, Vladimir Putin. Another well-loved leader who understands the common man, Putin enjoys farm work and organizing youth movements. It’s not parody.

  • John Lake

    I could not fail to notice that the Korean people dearly and deeply loved Jong-IL. Since I was writing what amounts to an obituary, it didn’t seem the place to raise old criticisms.

  • Costello

    Yet you feel it’s okay to raise old propaganda? How do you know he was deeply loved?

  • Here’s my instant analysis of the demise of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. There is a video of the regimented outpourings of grief over his death.

    We don’t know yet what will happen. I rather expect a regency, under which the “Great Young General,” now the “Glorious Leader,” will be guided by his betters, probably military but perhaps civilian.

  • Clavos

    Just read your piece, Dan(Miller). Nice analysis — that video’s a real eye-opener.

  • “Kim Jong-il rose to power as the General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea in 1948.”

    Quite an achievement considering that he was seven years old at the time.

  • Clavos

    Nice catch, Doc. His biography at Bio says:

    At the Sixth Party Congress in 1980, Kim Jong Il was given senior posts in the Politburo (the policy committee of the Korean Workers’ Party) the Military Commission, and the Secretariat (the executive department charged with carrying out policy). Thus, Kim was positioned to control all aspects of the government. (emphasis added)

    Sorry I missed it.

  • John Lake

    I was writing quickly and it was quite early this morning. In fact the first ruler of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, that is to say North Korea, was communist Kim Il-sung. He was the “Great Leader” and the “Eternal President”. The North Koreans revere Il-sung as from a divine origin, and the title of “Eternal President”, they take literally. Following Il-sung’s death in 1994, the now mourned Kim Jong-IL took control. He is credited with maintaining North Korea’s status in the world, and with having continued the North’s spiritual growth.

  • @5, 6

    So was Stalin in the aftermath of his death. Until it was safe for the Russian people to express their true feelings.

  • Although to give credit when credit is due, there may be something peculiar to the Oriental mind, like a quality of worship.

    Japanese surely worshiped their last Emperor.

  • Additional elements —

    a (necessarily) militaristic, fascist society on the verge of extinction, like a society of ants or worker bees.

    Interestingly, none of the mourners in the video appeared to be starving.

    Were they cherry picked for the benefit of Western eyes?

  • Clavos

    Were they cherry picked for the benefit of Western eyes?.

    Not only cherry picked, but probably rehearsed as well, as Dan alludes to in #7. My bet is those folks were picked and rehearsed some time ago for the eventuality of Kim’s death.

  • Baronius

    Interesting articles, Dan(M). One thing you didn’t mention. I’ve heard that China is terrified of a flood of refugees. That may explain their support of the status quo.

  • Baronius

    “He is credited with maintaining North Korea’s status in the world, and with having continued the North’s spiritual growth.”

    I was going to let that one go, but religion is kind of my thing, so I looked up Pew Research’s international rankings of religious freedom. Where was NK ranked in 2008 and 2009? It wasn’t. I found the following footnote:

    “North Korea: The sources clearly indicate that the government of North Korea is among the most repressive in the world with respect to religion as well as other civil liberties. But because North Korean society is effectively closed to outsiders, the sources are unable to provide the kind of specific and timely information that the Pew Forum coded in this quantitative study. Therefore, the report does not include a score for North Korea on either index.”

    Says the US Commission on International Religious Freedom:

    “Anyone caught engaging in the distribution of religious materials, holding secret religious gatherings, or having ongoing contact with overseas religious groups is subject to severe punishment ranging from imprisonment in labor camps to execution….North Korea researchers in South Korea recently estimated that 6,000 Christians are incarcerated in ‘Prison No. 15’ in the northern part of the country. Reportedly, there may be as many as 40,000 religious prisoners in North Korea. Testimony from former prison inmates and prison guards confirms that religious prisoners are typically treated worse than other inmates.”

  • John Lake

    It was the North Korean ambassador to the U.S. who provided the source for that statement. Therefore I surmise that Jong-IL supported and encouraged only the state religion (clearly not Christianity), possibly the system of beliefs that said his father, Il-sung was a divine being.

  • Baronius

    Well, John, North Korea is officially an atheistic state, suppressing even the traditional Buddhism. And they do have a religion of sorts that revolves around the Leader. But more to the point, you just cited the North Korean ambassador to the US as a source. Do you realize how off-the-charts crazy that is? I don’t think there even is a NK ambassador to the US, but even if I’m wrong on that, you’re quoting official North Korean statements as if they’re true, without bothering to mention the source. Come on!

  • John Lake

    I knew that was coming. It might have been the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations who made the statement about spiritual growth. It resisted my effort to provide a link, in as the gentleman was speaking on CNN.
    The statement is not a true/false issue. I assume the man was familiar with the feelings of the North Korean people.
    For what it’s worth, the Representative’s office is on Second Avenue, in New York

  • John Lake

    As to links in the article, I didn’t rely on research. I ‘winged it’.

  • Just got this off travel.state.gov: “The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK.” And as I look around the web I don’t think they have since North Korea broke off, but I just may not have found that info yet

  • John Lake

    Here’s a quote from Chinese Sina Weibo, who runs something called a microblogging (weibo) website from China:
    “Seeing the reactions of the North Korean people, and then seeing the comments of so many [Chinese] citizens, I suddenly feel at a loss. Do we need hero worship/cult of personality? Do we need religion/conviction? …North Korea may be lacking material wealth, but it has a strong spiritual strength! Whereas us, we’re the complete opposite! While we chased after material wealth, we lost what is actually most valuable, a spiritual conviction!”
    So,maybe they mean secular spiritualism. Or is that a non-sequitur?

  • Baronius, re #16. According NK Daily, one of the more reliable publications from Seoul with quite a few sources in North Korea, the border between China and North Korea was closed the day before the official December 19th announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death.

    It’s a bit of a puzzle for me. I can understand why China would want to discourage a rush of North Korean refugees — that seems to be among the reasons why China wants stability on the peninsula. However, North Korea’s incentive to prevent that seems less clear, unless North Korea is concerned that a truly massive exodus would snowball and perhaps upset the thus far rather smooth transition to a regency in control of Kim Jong-un. I am finding more reasons to think that a regency, including Kim Jong-il’s sister and brother in law, may be in the offing. (The link is down at the moment, but may return.) The likely regency will have more than enough problems without such a mass and snowballing exit.

  • Clavos

    OK, so one Communist from China (still a Communist country, despite its recent embracing of capitalistic endeavors) speaks of the “spiritual strength” of the Communists in NK?

    Is Communism not an atheistic, secular system?

  • Don’t fool yourself, Clav.

    Atheism can be just as deadly force of Unreason as religion can.

  • Cannonshop

    um…wow, John. I really don’t think I can add anything to what Baronius or Clavos has said regarding this one.

    ‘cept maybe that I get you a little better now-you’re not a schill, so much as a guy who REALLY wants to work into the face of what he percieves to be the ‘conventional wisdom’ of the West.

    N. Korea and Cuba both provide nice living laboratories as to what Communism REALLY looks like, but N. Korea’s better as a lab, since they have sequestered themselves from the corrupting influence of the Western World’s economies, resulting in a true example untainted by the need to maintain whole ‘display areas’ for the benefit of foreign tourists.

    IMHO, nothing like having a real, live, living warning to help prevent some forms of foolishness from becoming too pervasive.

  • Cannonshop, as neither North Korea or Cuba are actually Communist states, they can not possibly be demonstrations of what Communism really looks like.

    I’m not suggesting that a pure Communist state would be a good thing, but then again, pure Capitalism wouldn’t be either.

    I think there is much the ideas underlying Communism can teach us and it is really unfortunate that as yet the hostility and hysteria generated by Western businesses that are understandably afraid of the very idea have prevented us from exploring these concepts in a calmer, more measured way.

  • John Lake

    Our capitalistic democratic society was until recently, it seemed to me, fine, finely tuned and well honed. Maybe it started with Bush, or maybe earlier (Eisenhower gave us an early warning)and today government of the people, by the people, for the people has been modified by some, with the aide and support of our Supreme Court, to include government for the corporations. There is nothing wrong with representatives having concern for the very wealthy, but the concern the founding father envisioned ran toward individual American citizens, not soulless and profit oriented corporations.
    The founding fathers, caught up as they were in the spirit of a new nation, may have failed to consider that in later years there would come unscrupulous legislators who would be motivated by covert factors.
    Term limits probably won’t help. In will come a new batch of profiteers.
    The Occupy movement, the 99% are on the right track. Restore patriotism and conscientious leadership.
    I’m way off topic this Christmas morning. In the current times there may be a need for more government control over many areas of the economy, even manufacturing, certainly schooling and health care. Some see a hazy resemblance to socialism or communism and quickly call that resemblance to our attention. All very misleading.
    I need go place a new log on the fire. Holiday greetings, and please everyone have a wonderful, prosperous, and blessed new year!

  • Cannonshop

    #28 You misunderstand, Chris, Communism as articulated by Marx and his descendents doesn’t work, because people are apex predator mammals, rather than bees or ants, or other communal insects.

    What they are, is the final state you get to when you let ideological theories that sound nice run rampant. Kind of the whole Christian-abused “Road to Hell paved in good intentions (along with buckets of blood)).”

    We need labs like this to remind people that “Utopia” literally translates as “No Place” for a reason, and what you get with unfettered absolute collectivism and the denial of the value of the individual in favour of the collective-in the end, you end up with a “Dear Leader” or “Supreme Leader” overseeing an empire of misery and mediocrity-Orwell’s “Some animals are more equal than others”. Particularly those tasked to keep the others ‘Equal’. the final results you can see real live now, or in history:

    Soviet Union, DPRK, Cuba, etc. etc. Places where the border guards are there to keep people IN and the neighbours are scared the infection might spread with bullets and bombs.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    Communism as articulated by Marx and his descendents doesn’t work, because people are apex predator mammals, rather than bees or ants, or other communal insects.

    You’re absolutely right – pure communism is every bit as incompatible with the human animal as is its polar opposite – pure libertarianism. As with almost everything else, the best path lay somewhere in the middle…the ‘Goldilocks’ path.

  • It’s a common ploy, Cannon, to fall on the argument from human nature as though it was written in stone. All that’s fixed about human nature are the parameters, from the ridiculous to the sublime. And it’s a ploy that’s being invoked whenever imagination fails.

    There has been a number of successful small-scale examples when cooperation and mutual aid work just fine — especially when the circumstances warrant it. People are adoptable as well as adept. That’s the nature of the beast, if anything.

    Besides, communism is not being advocated beyond the realm of production. People do cooperate even today on group projects, even if they’re sponsored by companies such as Apple or Intel. There is no reason why they wouldn’t cooperate if the project was of their own making rather than sponsored by Steve Jobs.

    Besides, communism, so defined, says nothing about the remaining aspects of social structure, and there’s bound to be some so long as you have a society. But then again, cooperation doesn’t reduce us to the level of worker bees or a society of ants.

  • Cannonshop, I don’t misunderstand anything; I didn’t say that Communism, pure or Marxist, could work.

    What I said was that neither of those countries were Communist of any type, which they aren’t, so they don’t prove anything at all about it.

    On the other hand, although it is true that we humans are – currently at least – apex predator animals, we are also more than that as well. Otherwise life would be a lot more Nietzschean, which would involve both negatives and positives.

    Co-operation is also an inherent fundamental part of our nature, even our own bodies could not exist without it.

    It is important to get a balance between these sometimes conflicting impulses, just as it is important to balance emotion and intellect.

    Glenn, I’m glad to see you do actually understand the limitations of dogma, now you only have to set yourself free of it…

  • Igor

    Ha ha ha! Cannon trots out the old “people are apex predator mammals” apocrypha. I read that line in 1952 in “Argosy (for men!)” magazine. It was in among the pinups and ads for Charles Atlas muscle-building books.

    Where did you read that, Cannon? It’s too trite to be your own invention! I know, you read that in some gun-totin’ survivalist magazine where it justified a person running over another person and thieving for private gain: the corporate way!

    Even a child can see the flaws in the “Apex predator” theory. The human is weak of fang and claw (in fact our fangs and claws are a joke) and would be easily overcome by a small band of chimpanzees. A chimp has 5 times the arm strength of a human, and an ape has a muscle the size of a human quadricep to close his jaws on the measly body of a mere human!

    Even without predatory threats the human is barely able to survive, what with his inferior flimsy fur covering and generally frail physique.

    The only thing early man could successfully prey on was worms and insects. Even the small animals had sufficient quickness and evasion skills to avoid being eaten by people.

    What saved humans from disappearing as yet another failed experiment of evolution was TEAMWORK! Whimpy early humans discovered that while one man couldn’t bring down a bison for food, a group of humans could by banding together and COOPERATING to harry the animal. Like a pack of wolves.

    So they learned to live in COMMUNITIES and use teams to accomplish common aims.

    Let’s put Cannon in a cage with a wild chimp and see who emerges as the “apex predator”.

    Sometimes, Cannon, you’re the funniest guy on the Blog, although it’s probably unintentional.

  • Cannon conveniently forgets that culture has been out main line of defense against loss of instinct. It’s not by brute force that human race survived but only by culture and all its implements.

    Good post, Igor. Put that caveman to rest.

  • Clavos

    What makes humans “apex predators” is our ability to use tools — like a 30-30 on those chimps.

  • Implements, I didn’t think I stuttered.

    Happy New Years and welcome to the human race.

  • I got $10 on the chimp

  • Unless it’s Hulk Hogan?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Yes, the 30-30 is powerful…but Gandhi was more powerful still.

    The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, for while the sword (or gun) may kill, it is the pen (or any sort of media in today’s world) that either directs that weapon…or blunts it.

    Witness the Arab Spring, esp. in Egypt.

    Those of you who depend on weapons only wind up being the tools of those who use the media to tell you where to point your weapons.

  • Human vs. chimpanzee in a fair fight… chimp winsevery time.

  • Kinda missing the point there, Glenn. The Arab Spring wasn’t exactly forged by men or women of letters but by moral force. These people put their bodies on the lime, not just comments online.

    Perhaps it was liberal ideology that made them do so, which is why you’re so rah-rah-rah, trying to take credit. But you can bet your sweet ass it ain’t liberal ideology that fires OWS.

    Now, figure that out, if you can.

  • Interestingly too, Glenn, you keep on referring to the Arab Spring but you’ve been conspicuously silent about OWS.

    Is is just a case of the liberal’s dropsy?

  • But you can bet your sweet ass it ain’t liberal ideology that fires OWS.

    Roger, you might want to explain that to this charmer.

    He will instantly conclude that you are a liberal, abuse you at length and then ban you (all the while pretending he’s the most reasonable person on Earth), but you might find the interaction interesting.

    I find the title of his blog especially ironic in light of his behaviour towards those who disagree with him.

  • STM

    Doc, if I vote for the Libs, will I be a Libtard?

  • Only if you turn up at the polling station 2 minutes before they close.

  • Cannonshop

    #31 and finding that path is certainly a challenge, ain’t it?

    The weapons change, but the underlying instincts remain the same-Humans are pack-hunting, vicious, predatory animals. Culture is just an expression of “fighting physically hurts and we have a lot of pain receptors, thin skins, and it takes a long time to replenish the pack after a fight.”

    Of course, there’s an old proverb too: “The separation between a civilized man and a Savage, is that the Savage does not torture for entertainment.”

    And, ah, Roger?

    Nietzche was an Optimist.

  • @44

    That guy (or whoever) is beyond words, Dreadful.

  • Haven’t made any comment about Nietzsche, Cannon. Take it to the source.

    And yes, you’re still a caveman, however true it may be that civilization is but a veneer.

  • Speaking of the death of North Korea’s beloved leader Kim Jong-il, his funeral was today. It seems to have been an important part of the process of ensuring continuation of the Kim Dynasty, albeit under a regency. Here’s my take on The Religion of Kim in North Korea and its critical importance to continuation of the regime.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    Interestingly too, Glenn, you keep on referring to the Arab Spring but you’ve been conspicuously silent about OWS. Is is just a case of the liberal’s dropsy?

    No. Some time ago I commented on one of your political philosophy articles, and you (and I think Cindy, too, but I’m not sure) not-so-politely invited me to stay off your thread…so I’ve pretty much stayed off your threads since then, or if I do comment therein, it’s rarely about the subject of the article itself.

    All of which, in retrospect, probably means that I’m way too thin-skinned. And that’s probably not news to you.

  • Never done that, Glenn. In fact, I make the greatest effort to be as hospitable as humanly possible whenever I’m hosting.

    What you’re saying would be contrary to my gregarious and generous nature (haha).

  • Igor

    Of course Cannon has no chance at all of getting a 30-30 by his own efforts (smelt much iron, Cannon?) absent the blessings of our COOPERATIVE society that was inherited by him because of the COMMUNITY efforts of humans before him and his HUMANITARIAN treatment by parents who chose to confer the blessings of SOCIETY on him, despite the apparent worthlessness to them of the squalling infant.

    But I suppose that Cannon, apex braggart that he is, believes that he is a self-made man and owes nothing to society.

  • zingzing

    some guy invented a machine that can jerk cannon off, but he’ll use his own hand, thankyouverymuch. (and he’ll use a lube he created from the sap of a certain tree that is native to his property.)

  • And you’d end up with a self-propelling cannon, no?

  • Igor

    He may need a cannon, as that 30-30 pea-shooter has little stopping power. Even mere humans survive a 30-30.

  • Cannonshop

    #53 nnnghwha? Oh, sorry Igor, I was falling asleep. I guess I’m supposed to be insulted or something by that? Try HARDER, check Glenn’s posts in the past-he’s pretty good at getting me riled (then again, he’s an adult…)

    Hilariously enough, Igor, I’ve actually built, and USED a charcoal-smelter before. It’s called “Working Knowledge”, it’s not that hard to obtain, when one has actually done, and learned how to do, things of a practical, or at least interesting, nature.

    It helps to have hobbies besides lurking on political blog sites and spouting the political views most of us abandoned in our teens, don’tcha know.