So Kim Jong Il was a weird guy—and how nice is it to refer to him in the past tense?—but hidden among his more famous quirks is the fact that there are prominent South Koreans who support him and have expressed genuine sadness at his death. One of them is a famous writer named Gong Ji Young, who in response to a photograph of South Korean protestors celebrating the death of the Heinously Dear Leader tweeted the following—“Shame on you!” (“정말 부끄럽구요 쫌!”). Various politicians aligned with the Democratic Party have also apparently expressed their condolences.
(news is over, opinion follows; the preceding paragraph would have been impossible to write without A.’s help)
Now I am a communist, partly because communism is cool again, but also partly because Christopher Hitchens called himself an especially conservative Trotskyist, a title I would like to adopt for myself even though most of my knowledge about Leon Trotsky comes from Animal Farm. Nevertheless, armed with an amateur’s knowledge of the issues I essentially hope that our capitalist economy will become more democratic, peacefully, over time. This opinion places me far to the left of most people. But in South Korea I am a conservative.
It is a hallowed South Korean tradition to despise whoever is in power, and as the current president, Lee Myung Bak, has been around for several years, you will be hard pressed to find a single person expressing support for his policies, which mostly benefit a small group of incredibly rich old Christian men. But people hate him for a lot of good reasons. The economy, his strongest asset, is doing okay but that’s really because everyone here is working like slaves (everyone, that is, except for me) and because the country appears to sell a lot more than it buys—particularly in the case of ships, cars, electronics, cellphones.
The man does not care about the environment, the underprivileged, or freedom of speech, sacrificing everything and everyone in the name of money, and he is also—as the North Koreans call him, and everyone else in this country—a puppet of the United States, having just signed what would seem to be a fairly unpopular Free Trade Agreement with America (which some Koreans believe to be more of a threat to their security than the North (Japan also is considered to be more dangerous)). For these reasons I should probably not support him. But I do.
For all his faults, the man doesn’t give anything to North Korea. Not a dime. Not a grain of rice. And because every dime and grain of rice would go toward maintaining the elite and the military in that country, I support the idea of starving it of resources and allowing it to collapse on its own, because the North Korean army is too powerful to be destroyed without killing huge numbers of innocent people, and the North Korean people themselves appear to be too weak or too unwilling to take down the regime on their own. This may seem callous, but I think the people who are starving to death in the North right now will continue starving regardless of whether or not anyone sends them aid. Some people might say that aid should be sent along with people to monitor its distribution, but in Asia that would mean losing face, because the poverty in North Korea would be exposed for all to see, and nothing could be more shameful, because horrible things are okay as long as nobody else knows about them. The Northrons (or Norks) will allow countless people to starve before allowing themselves to be humiliated like that.
A more liberal politician is probably going to be elected to the presidency at the end of next year as the result of the current backlash against President Lee, which means that the status quo will remain the same except for North Korea. The South will, quite promptly, resume sending everything short of nuclear weapons to the North in the name of solidarity with everyone’s racial brethren (seriously), and these actions will probably prolong the North’s eventual collapse by months, years, or even decades. America’s policymakers will probably support this move as well because people seem to think that the leaders of North Korea actually want to give up their weapons, their mansions, and their power, in exchange for nooses and cold prison cells. This would not be logical anywhere outside of North Korea; I don’t know why it is logical inside North Korea.