Thursday, November 25, 2010

North Korea: Kim Jong Il and Son; Speculation

Dynasty? Succession?

What is this, some kind of historical novel? Or maybe another Star Wars story?

Nope: It's speculation about what's going on in North Korea.

The death toll for that shelling of a South Korean island is up to four now; Kim Jong Il is still alive, apparently; and odds are that Kim Jong-il ordered the hit himself. To make his son look good.

How that's supposed to work, I don't know. Maybe it's 'competence by association.' The younger Kim was (probably) with North Korea's leader, (most likely) touring the artillery base, shortly before North Korea whacked the South Koreans.

Dynasty, Succession, North Korea and Nukes

There was a time when territories were run somewhat along the lines of the Corleone family (Godfather and sequels). The system had its drawbacks, but it worked.

Quite a bit of how well it worked depended, I think, on who the "godfather" was. Except the monarch had some other title, back in the 'good old days.'

Then, colonists in North America got fed up with loopy tax regulations, among other things, and tipped the apple cart over.

"Democracy" was all the rage not long after that, and now the monarch of the (former) colonists is one of the few remaining on Earth.

Korea, Elections, The Godfather, and Names

North Korea isn't a monarchy. On paper.

Kim Jon Il is the chairman of the National Defense Commission, North Korea's "highest administrative authority." While I'm on the subject of names, "North Korea" is what folks here in North America call Kim Jon Il's domain.

The name folks over there use is "Choson-minjujuui-inmin-konghwaguk," or Choson, for short. I take it that's an effort to express 조선, as pronounced, in the version of the Latin alphabet that the English language uses. In South Korea, "Korea" is 한국, or "Hanguk:" Sort of.

Why don't they call it "Korea?" That's another topic. Bottom line is that folks who live in a particular area generally use the name that works in their language. My ancestral homelands, for example, are Norge and Eire, and I married someone whose ancestors came from Nederland and Deutschland. We both speak American English, so those aren't the words we generally use.

Back to Choson / North Korea

North Korea, The Godfather, and Elections

Kim Jong Il is an elected official. On paper. With nobody else to run against, it's no great surprise.

I've got a bit more respect for rulers in Kim Jong Il's position, when they don't pretend that they're where they are 'by the will of the people.'

Think of the (fictional) Corleone family in The Godfather. "Don" Vito Corleone comes off as a moderately decent autocrat, I gather. Consider what his image would be, if the Don had elections at intervals, with himself as the only candidate. And tried to present the Family as a democratic institution.

Anyway, Kim Jong Il insists that he's an elected official. Odds are that his son will make the same claim.

As for the guessing game on who ordered the shelling of that island, and why? That's yet another topic.

Feuding Warlords With Nukes

Back in the 'good old days,' a strong-willed warlord, or king, or whatever, could often keep warlord wannabes in check within his holdings.

If the warlord had good sense - and gave a rip about his domain - he'd select the biggest, strongest, toughest, smartest wannabe: while he still had a few years to go. The old warlord would make an effort to train the wannabe in the fine art of leadership. And make it clear that this particular wad of meat was his chosen successor. Then, when the old warlord died, there'd be a relatively short period of bloodshed while the new warlord demonstrated that he really wanted to carry out the old warlord's wishes.

It was a messy system, but it worked. European warlords worked out a system of hereditary succession that tended to reduce the amount of internal warfare.

But the kings didn't hold elections. They had other excuses for being where they were. 'Divine right' was a favorite for a while - and that's yet again another topic.

That was then.

I think what we've got in North Korea is a little like those colorful episodes where the old warlord is dying, and trying to get his successor in position to hack and slash his way to the throne.

Except this time, the warlord wannabes have nuclear weapons.

Think Macbeth - the Shakespeare story, not the real one. Except that Macbeth, Macduff, and Duncan all have a few nukes. And the incentive to use them.

Here's what set me off this morning:
Excerpt from:
"North Korean leader and son visited artillery site: reports"
Jeremy Laurence, editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Andrew Marshall, Reuters (November 25, 2010)

"North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his son and successor Jong-un visited the artillery base from where shells were fired at a South Korean island just hours before the attack, South Korean media reported on Thursday.

"North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians on Tuesday was probably ordered by Kim Jong-il himself, the Joongang Daily quoted a well-informed government source as saying.

"Seoul government officials contacted by Reuters could not comment on the reports.

"The United States says it believes North Korea's actions were an isolated act tied to leadership changes in Pyongyang, and many experts say the North carried out the shelling to burnish the image of the inexperienced and little-known younger Kim.

"The ailing leader is desperate to give a lift to his youngest son, named as heir apparent to the family dynasty in September, but who has little clear support in the military...."
Related posst:


Mark said...

When I first read that I so knew that there is going to be a bunch of hating from antis again...but for real? Just because money is involved you think this has to do with publicity? I think the girls are getting enough publicity as it is with their comeback. turning their good deed into such a joke is really really disrespectful. I ask myself what exactly someone has to do to not get bashing from netizens. poor girls.

Brian H. Gill said...


I'm not entirely clear on what you're reacting to.

There is a sort of "publicity" involved in matters centered on Kim Jong Il's rule of North Korea, but I do not believe I either stated or implied that money, as such, was primarily involved: either as means or as motive.

Kim Jong Il and his son, the two individuals I discuss in this post, are both men. Not girls.

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