Friday, April 8, 2011

The Kim Who Was Never Going to Be 'There'

There has always been a National Defense Commission. It used to be small, and concerned itself with security matters.

But when an omnipotent founding father begins to fade and then passes away, his successor cannot merely shove the elder statesman aside and step into his ruling slippers as if nothing has happened. God lord no, such a thing would never do! The ailing-soon-to-be-former leader is a God, a hero amongst men; not, in short, someone to be cast aside without a second thought!

So what did Kim Jong Il do when his father died? Well, first he mourned for three years while a devastating famine swept the northern provinces of the country. Then, rather like Stalin at the dawn of World War 2, he pulled himself together and made a plan. That plan was quite good, actually. First, he vowed to turn the country, more than it already was, into a military dictatorship. Then, having adopted this notion of ‘Military-first’ rule, he took the National Defense Commission, which he had been leading as Commander-in-Chief since 1991, and turned it into the de facto state ruling body, thus becoming, to every newsreader on the peninsula, “National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il…”

Now, fast forward fifteen years or so. There is a new leader on the rise, or so it is said. And he, too, has a problem. First of all, his father isn’t dead either, although in many ways this is fortunate since the young man doesn’t have much to work with as it stands. No, the real problem is that this young man needs a way to rule, a route by which to grip the levers of power. The same problem this young man’s father had is back to haunt him; his own father has been lionized for so long, been elevated to the verge of that pantheon of Gods upon which his grandfather sits (though nowadays the nation’s subjects apparently laugh into their hands as they speak of such things). He cannot simply walk in the older man's shoes. To reiterate; he can’t just step into the leader’s slippers!

So, just as his father did, this young man goes in through the side door. This is a military state, so he needs to take power in that field; in short, he needs to find a seat on a military… commission? Yes, that’s the answer, a military commission! How about the Central Military Commission? Bravo!

We should perhaps not, then, be particularly stunned by the fact that even Kim Jong Eun's name itself went unsaid yesterday. Kim Jong Il is the National Defense Commission, and when he dies, the National Defense Commission may well die with him. Kim Jong Eun, meanwhile, needs to find a different road...

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