7月 01

Article 2:
KIM Jong-il was reluctant to appear before the public, but KIM Jong-eun was trying to mingle with the people.

Written by:Professor Ri So-tetsu, Ryukoku University Japan

On December 28 2011, the snow was still falling when KIM Jong-il’s funeral procession started in the afternoon. The mourning citizens crowded along the road where the motor hearse was passing. Some mourners shouted “Dear General, don’t leave us!” and some of them put their coats on the snow road ahead of the hearse. Even after the funeral, the mourning period lasted more than 100 days. According to defector KIM Chol-u (cover name), many people did not return home but stayed in their offices day and night during this mourning period. On January 7 2012, KIM Jong-eun sent his personal letter to the party and military cadre personnel to join these mourning citizens who were visiting from afar. In May 2012 after he was installed as the First Secretary of the party, he visited an amusement park and weeded the garden, and the state-run media said that he rebuked the people responsible for the park management. Defector KIM Chol-u said, “We believed that the new young leader was different from his father and he might start a new trend in society.”
Russian diplomat Georgy Toloraya who stayed in North Korea for a long time described KIM Jong-eun’s personality. “He was different from his father. KIM Jong-il did not try to do anything to impress the people. But KIM Jong-eun was trying to win the people’s adoration. KIM Jong-il was reluctant to appear before the public, but KIM Jong-eun was trying to mingle with the people.” In June 2012, he called more than 20,000 young children, 7-13 years old, from all over the country to Pyongyang to participate in the foundation of the Korean Boy Scouts. He even called the children of the parents who tried to defect to South Korea but were arrested. That was unimaginable during KIM Jong-il’s days. KIM Jong-eun ordered to disregard their family background and used special trains and aircrafts to bring them to Pyiongyang. At his first public speech on KIM Il-sung’s 100th birthday (April 15 2012), he boasted that he will never allow his people suffering from hunger again.                                                 
When the famine hit the Hwanghae-Do area known as a main granary in the country and people were starving to death, he introduced a new agricultural policy to reduce the grain collection from cooperative farms and allowed the farmers to keep a certain portion of their products. It was a drastic turnaround from his father who did not attempt it even while millions were starving to death. He showed a flexible attitude even on the nuclear issue. At the February 2012 negotiation with the US, he agreed to suspend the uranium enrichment and missile test quid pro quo for food support from the US. However, international expectations were crushed half a month after the agreement. North Korea announced it that would test-launch a long range guided missile (disguised as satellite) on April 13 2012. It was not a sudden change in policy but a planned project that KIM Jong-eun could not abandon.  
On March 31 2013, at the plenary session of the party central committee, KIM Jong-eun gave a speech for 20 minutes and emphasized that owing to the current domestic and international climate and to pursue revolutionary objectives North Korea must adopt a new national strategy to enforce simultaneous development of the nuclear and economic programs. This simultaneous development policy line was a fundamental party objective irrespective of any negotiations with the US. The Labor Newspaper explained that the two-prong national strategy to develop nuclear and economic program was a historical rambler development from KIM Il-sung’s time. It also added that North Korea adopted a national strategy to reinforce economic construction and a defence posture simultaneously when the Bay of Pigs took place in 1962 and the US nuclear threat was looming. 
As the economic plight and international isolation tormented his regime, KIM Jong-il drifted toward military policy rather than economic improvement. The confrontation with the US over nuclear and missile development naturally escalated. He always said, “We can live without toffee, but we cannot survive without ammunition.” Nuclear and missile development was also a sophisticated way of earning foreign currency. He was a ironically practical man. His 3rd son KIM Jong-eun who grew up  became the Supreme Leader and believed he could get both toffee candy and ammunition without thinking about the problems this would create. Out of this simple mentality, he carried out a missile tests breaking his agreement the US.  
While his uncle CHANG Song-taek was trying hard to improve the economy as the national top priority, he paid more attention to nuclear development. Economic reconstruction must inevitably entail the freeze of nuclear program. The two conflicting dreams between uncle and nephew clashed and the uncle was eliminated. It was known that KIM Jong-eun murmured, “If we have nuclear weapons, we have nothing to worry about. No enemy would bother our country.” He believed what his father said, “We will achieve combat deployment of nuclear weapons by 2019, and will then focus on all-out economic reconstruction to open the doors of a strong and prosperous nation.” Without any military experience, he became the supreme commander and tried to control the armed forces by purging undesirables. He had nothing else to do but to build up his image other than nuclear and missile adventure even fretting South Korea, the United States, and neighboring countries.
For the 4th nuclear test on January 6 2016, they exaggerated that it was a hydrogen bomb test. KIM Jong-eun said “We will make the whole world dread our “Juche nuclear policy” as well as our socialist platform, and our glorious workers’ party.” He bragged that he was the leader of the country. Subsequent to this nuclear test, North Korea conducted another long range ballistic missile test in February and it invited strong UN Security Council sanctions. Even China was irritated and agreed to support the sanctions. China intensified the border control and overland trading activity between China and North Korea. His nuclear and missile adventure is impoverishing the national economy and boosting the rancor of the people. He wants to be adored by the people and feared by the world, but North Korea is now bogged down in quagmire while Kim is “chasing two rabbits.” When will he realize that he is betting on wrong horse and the nuclear program is his own calamity?  

About the Author
Ri Sotetsu is professor of sociology at Ryukoku University, Kyoto; his specialty is modern history of East Asia and media history. The son of ethnic Koreans residing in Heilongjiang province, he was born in 1959 and educated in China. He lived in China and worked as a journalist for a time before going to Japan, where he earned a doctorate(Ph.D.) degree in journalism at Sophia University. He is a Japanese citizen. In 1998 he was appointed assistant professor at Ryukoku University and became professor in 2005. He is a prolific writer of articles and books studying the history of journalism in the former Manchuria and in Japanese-occupied Korea and analyzing current affairs in North and South Korea. Among his major works (all in Japanese) are: Kim Jong-Il to Kim Jong-Eun no shotai (On the Identity of Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Eun; Bungei Shunju), Park Geun-hye no chosen: Mukuge no hana ga saku toki (Park Geun-hye’s Challenge: When the Hibiscus Blooms; Chuo Koron Shinsha), and Higashi-Ajia no aidentetei: Ni-Chu-Kan wa koko ga chigau (Identity in East Asia: Here Is How Japan, China, and Korea Differ; Gaifusha).

Leave a Reply