Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Playboy of the Eastern World

Salon passed along a remarkably empty article on North Korea from the GlobalPost, "an awarding-winning international news site that focuses on original reporting." Donald Kirk's "reporting" in "The Unlikely Threat to North Korea" is original mainly in the sense of being creative, spinning wordage out of nothing. "Long dismissed as a playboy, Kim Jong Il's eldest son has become an outspoken and dangerous critic of the regime," promises the subhead, but the article doesn't deliver.

Of course that's typical of American reporting on official enemies. Kim Jong Il was fat, ugly, and crazy, with the biggest porn collection this side of the Vatican -- or so we in the West were constantly told, with propaganda feeds from the South Korean CIA. In the case of Kim Jong Nam, the subject of Kirk's article,

The wires are abuzz with news of a soon-to-be-released book based on emails and interviews between Kim Jong Nam and a Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi over a seven year period. In the book, which is called “My father Kim Jong Il and Me,” Jong Nam reportedly said that North Korea is bound for collapse and called his half-brother, Kim Jong Un, a figurehead.

What “a joke to the outside world,” Jong Nam is purported to have said of the ascent of Jong Un, whom he admitted he has never actually met. More seriously, Jong Nam predicted, “The Kim Jong Un regime will not last long” and “without reform … the regime will collapse.”

So, let's see: a book that hasn't been published yet (and the author of the link in that quotation hasn't read it either, though she does scratch Kirk on the back: she says he "called Kim Jong Nam 'an unguided missile' whose 'uncensored, unauthorized comments provide relief from the relentless flow of propaganda.'" Radical!); an estranged son who's been speaking truth to power on his Facebook page, since 2001 when he
fell out with his father following an incident at Tokyo's Narita airport, where he was nailed for trying to get through on a fake Dominican passport. Jong Nam fled to Macau and has been living it up ever since.
If you can't trust someone like that, who can you trust? For Donald Kirk, he inspires absolute confidence:
Into this morass of ignorance steps Kim Jong Nam, firing off verbal salvos that are wildly unpredictable, not to mention improbable. Isn’t he risking his neck with casually dubious comments to journalists who find him from time to time near his home in the gambling enclave of Macau?

Could it be that one day we’ll wake up to find that Jong Nam has been mysteriously snuffed out like a few others who’ve dared to spill the regime’s “secrets” after fleeing for sanctuary elsewhere?

Sounds like just the kind of guide the US needs into the murky morass of North Korea. Someone like Ahmed Chalabi, who never steered us wrong about Iraq. Maybe the Pentagon should give Kim Jong Nam a stipend too, if they're not already doing it. Who's supporting him in "the gambling enclave of Macau?" Kirk says he "has the Chinese on his side," though he's vague about what that means, as he is about everything else in his article.

This is not a recommendation of Kim Jong Un, who is young and inexperienced to be running a country, especially one like North Korea. Kim Jong Nam's prediction that the Northern regime will collapse is not absurd; but then, Western analysts have been predicting the same thing for decades, which may be why they talk now about "stability" instead; you can only go on being a false prophet for so long. Kirk prattles about the "threat" Kim Jong Nam somehow poses to Pyongyang, but doesn't back that up with any substance. Does Kim have viable supporters back home who'd want him to take his half-brother's place? Does he have a way to get past North Korea's state-run media to stir a spirit of rebellion among the masses? Does he have a magical ring that has the power to rule all others, if he can only find his way into the depths of Mordor? Kirk doesn't say. Nor does he say anything to back his claim that "With his views now on the record, [Kim]’s emerged as a font of wisdom and insight into his late father’s fiefdom."

A collapse of the Pyongyang regime would be a human disaster, but there are always scum who fantasize about such things. American frothers were cheated by Gorbachev and fate of the bloodbath they'd dreamed of since 1917 for the Soviet Union, and they preferred to ignore the many deaths from disease and hunger that resulted from the Chicago boys' restructuring interventions in the 90s. The US under George W. Bush blocked attempts at conciliation initiated by the South, especially Kim Dae Jung's Sunshine Policy, and backed hardliners like Lee Myung Bak instead. Funny; you'd think that it should be up to the Koreans to decide such things, wouldn't you? And it's also funny to see Kim Dae Jung denounced for allegedly giving money to Kim Jong Il when the US gives palette-loads of cash to US collaborators like Hamid Karzai.

Yep, Kim Jong Nam sounds like just kind of friend the US has been looking for. Or at least the kind that right-wing ideologues like Donald Kirk want us to look for.