There are many reasons why I don't always enjoy reading the South Korean media, and this past few days has seen me provided with one more; namely, Kim Han Sol.
Let's be clear: Kim Han Sol is a complete nobody. Not necessarily a good lad, but not necessarily a bad lad, either: he may or may not be kind to his friends, for example, and he may or may not send home gifts to his father at Chuseok and Seolnal religiously. Either way, we don't know the answers to these questions, and the reason why we don't know is because, even though his father is allegedly Kim Jong Il's first son Kim Jong Nam, it just. doesn't. matter.
It doesn't matter first and foremost because the boy is 16 years old. He had the misfortune of being born in North Korea, alongside the dodging-a-bullet good fortune of being born into the Kim family. But, like Prince Harry, he also has the good fortune of having absolutely no chance whatsoever of ever being the successor to anybody.
All of which then obviously begs the following question: why did the appearance of a young man of this name on the class list at a fairly obscure educational establishment in Bosnia & Herzegovina (a statement pretending that the arrival of Kim represents the absolute pinnacle of outreach can be read here, but the class list has been taken down) have the South Korean media falling over itself to publish not only his photos (the lad is relatively dashing, and has fashion sense best described as more 'Japanese-y' than Korean, piquing front page picture editors all over Seoul, including on the Korean side of my office) but also, pretty much verbatim, every comment he has ever posted/left on the internet?
For saving me the bother of reproducing said comments, thanks to Martyn Williams at North Korea Tech for this very brief overview of the kind of stuff that filled a page 2 spread in the Chosun Ilbo (see left, followed on from page 1 above, and synthesized in English in large part here, found via Leonid Petrov).
Anyway, it's all irrelevant. As the post title suggests, it's celebrity tittle tattle, but without any sign of a celebrity. This young man, if indeed it is who the South Korean media believe it is, may one day end up in Pyongyang (or elsewhere) doing the bidding of whoever is on the throne in the North Korean capital. Then, much like Kim Jong Cheol and the sordid tale of his appearance at an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore, he will be fair game. It won't be interesting, but it will be legitimate, and connected criticism will be absolutely justified. The current press focus on Kim Han Sol is neither.
Part of me wants it all to turn out to have been an elaborate hoax, but the other half of me knows that the Korean media would then feel compelled to publish that, too, and I am not sure I can take much more.
(This is an extension of a commentary I wrote for The Daily NK on Saturday, October 2nd here, ably assisted, I might point out, by Mr. Gerard Armstrong, one of those behind-the-scenes kind of heroic translator sorts who make my daily management of Daily NK content so much easier.)