Shock spread quickly through the office at noon today. They are still talking about it. I don’t understand what they are saying but every other sentence I hear the name Kim Jong Il.
Before we get onto that I can’t write a blog today without mentioning Christopher. I was deeply saddened on Friday to hear that my hero and idol, Christopher Hitchens had died at age 62. I learnt more from Christopher Hitchens through his writing and public speeches than I learnt from any other author, speaker or public intellectual. I will always remember what he taught me through his writing: Don't let anyone else do your thinking for you. Follow your principles to the end. Don't flinch from the truth. Repeat until the last ounce of strength drains from your body. On Friday I raised my glass to the Hitch and had an evening of debate and Hitchslap viewing with my friends. I wonder what Christopher Hitchens would have written today had he been alive to hear of the news of the death of North Korea’s ‘dear leader’ Kim Jong Il.
On hearing the news it is important to remember a few facts about the Kim family and their totalitarian dictatorship. Do remember that Kim Jong Il was head of the armed forces of North Korea and was in charge of the state but was not head of state. The head of state is and remains Kim Jong Il’s dead father Kim Il Sung. You might call it a necrocrasy. Kim Jong ils system was a phenomenon of the very extreme right. It was based on a totalitarian "military first" mobilization, and was maintained by slave labour and fear mongering. The whole regime was instilled on an ideology of the most unapologetic racism and xenophobia. It is an absurd situation and I could never begin to describe the feelings and emotions that Koreans on both sides of the border are feeling today. Never has the relationship between North and South been more uncertain. It is hard to tell what my co-workers are thinking at the best of times, today, is no exception.
It is certainly an interesting time to be living 12 kilometres south of the border (DMZ). There are so many issues at play that I could never (with my limited knowledge of the situation) begin to describe. I am told by my second grade co-teacher that South Korea is now in an ‘emergency state’. I’m not quite sure what this means but I’m fairly convinced it is not as dramatic as it sounds. Simply put, nobody knows what will happen next. North Korea will certainly be mourning the passing of their dear leader for many weeks before new leader Kim Jong Un will really take control of the country. I suppose we had better hope he is not trigger happy.
So, what are some scenarios that could play out here? Well, I can speculate again with my limited knowledge. Never has there been a better time for the South to invade the North. This will most certainly not happen. The South will remain uncertain about the new leader of the country and only time will tell how the new leader of the country will wield his power. One thing you can be certain of is that defences on at least the South Korean side will be heightened. Time can only tell if Kim Jung Un will be open to negotiations regarding a many number of issues that are at play in this area of the world.
Kim Jong Un has been groomed by his father and his grandfathers state proper gander for many years (it is assumed he is in his late twenties). He will be well aware of the power struggle that could easily take place over the coming months. What if other successors or advisors do not want Kim Jong Un to be the leader? Nuclear instability is certainly a worry for many commentators on the subject. Unfortunately there are a seldom few facts about the most isolated country in the world and the truth is nobody knows what is going to happen next. Kim Jong Uns father was certainly keen to build up the countries nuclear arsenal and would frequently call South Korea a puppet to the Western superpowers.
News will continue to roll in over the next few hours and in the half an hour it has taken me to write this the office is still buzzing over the news. I do not know how to react when they approach me and make dead hand gestures and repeat the name Kim Jong Il. Do I smile? Do I sound apologetic? Do I look afraid? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react, but I’ve been gently smiling and nodding and letting them know that I have heard the news.
I like to think that Hitchens would be warmed to hear that a fascist dictator who brought pain and suffering to millions is dead. Yet, I do not know what he would have written, all I know is he would have written something. I’m saddened that I’ll never get the chance to read it. Whatever it may have been.