One Very Dangerous Gerbil

When DPRK dictator Kim Jong-Il died in December of last year, his 27-year old (we think) son, Kim Jong-Un succeeded to the seat of power.  Believed to be a soft and callow youth unfamiliar with the dangerous intrigues of the power elite in North Korea, Kim Jong-Un was described by a Western intelligence analyst this way:   “In a pit of snakes, KJU is a gerbil”.     His long-term prospects were uncertain, to say the least.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there was significant underestimation of the Dear Boy who is now Dear Leader.  It would appear that some thirty senior DPRK officials, including a substantial number in Army leadership, have been “removed”.   We are looking at a full-fledged purge.   The latest, the Guardian tells us, is the execution of Kim Choi, former Deputy Minister of the Army.  His means of execution?  Mortar round.  No trace to be left.  (In all likelihood, if the 82mm pictured in the Guardian article was the ordnance used, there would be plenty of traces.  So maybe it was a 120 or 160?)  Reason?  Carousing during the official mourning period of his father.  (So much for lifting a Guinness, “for strength”!)

The West (and South Korea) had hoped that the young dictator would be more inclined to be a reformer who could reach out to the West and attempt to alleviate the miserable privations of DPRK’s populace, and lessen the pariah status of his country in the region and world.    Kim Jong-Un’s actions don’t necessarily rule out such an inclination, but they do show that he certainly was a fast learner in the game of power consolidation, and has no trouble employing the traditional tactics of political purge, prison, and execution of military and political rivals on flimsy charges.

My guess is that the snakes are considerably more nervous than they were ten months ago.   Young Kim has a semi-hot wife, apparently, and even if the family photo has a slight hint of mortal terror (whose don’t?), he seems to be getting comfortable with the trappings of his office as Brutal Dictator Dear Leader.

5 thoughts on “One Very Dangerous Gerbil”

  1. They’re all well fed, unlike most of the population. I view North Korea as the end game of current US Democratic Political theory. No rich, and most everyone is starving in the dark. JMHO.

  2. I was discussing this with a friend, and it really troubles me. When North Korea collapses (and it’s really only a matter of time… and a question of whether it will explode or implode), the citizens are screwed. I’m not talking about “what will they do to live”, I’m talking about “how will they react to learning that everything they know is a lie.”

    They’re not unaware that they’re poor and starving. They know full well that they are. They’re not unaware that their leadership isn’t starving, they’re not blind. But I think they honestly believe that the rest of the world is worse off. Because if they didn’t believe that, it would have come tumbling down sooner. Oh sure, individuals here or there may know the truth of the matter. But the vast swath of citizens just doesn’t realize that they’re starving in a world of plenty.

    When the blinders come off, they’re going to do two things. One, they will rip the authorities that have held them in this poverty to shreds. Probably literally. Then I think you’re going to see mass suicides. I don’t honestly see how they can cope with it.

  3. Mike, we know from the NK defectors in South Korea that many cope, but all their minds have internal shackels. Most seem to pine for less choices and less political chaos (democracy). Their food-deficient health eventually recovers, but they remain mentally and physically stunted.

    1. The problem is, what you’re describing is the ability of those self selected to escape have to cope. They are already taking massive risks, and know that something better is on the other side (else, why escape). I’m talking about the poor folks who, maybe don’t buy in that everything is rosy, but at least have faith that it’s worse elsewhere. THOSE are the people who I fear will be unable to cope. And I’m willing to bet there are a lot more of those type than the risk takers.

  4. The Dear Boy has advisers that are quite knowledgeable in power politics. I just wondered why the purges took so long. Maybe they didn’t and we are just getting the word.

    Defectors from Commie regimes all have serious problems adapting to their new circumstances. Victor Belenko, the guy that flew a MiG 25 from Siberia to Japan, took a couple to 3 years to finally adapt to the US and freedom. Even at the last he ended up on the doorstep of an Air Force Colonel (Fluent in Russian) that had worked with him when the US was going over the Foxbat Belenko flew over, wanting help to get back to the Soviet Union. The Colonel was able to settle Belenko down and took him flying (the Colonel was a Wing Commander at the time). This was after a countrywide trip Belenko took by himself, in his own car, on his own dime.

    Those mental shackles can be tough to break.

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