North Korea’s New Year’s Joint Editorial showed both that Kim Jong Eun has little potential to be a great leader, and that the Chosun Workers’ Party will face myriad limitations in 2012.
The editorial began, “Accept the last instruction of comrade Kim Jong Il”... Although the legitimacy of the North Korean regime is rooted in traditions and bloodlines, mention of the mythical dying injunctions of the late leader in the New Year’s Joint Editorial was unexpected; it did not happen even after Kim Il Sung’s death.
The editorial was brimming with propaganda about the works of Kim Jong Il. Yet Kim Jong Il led what was a middle income socialist society into the low income bracket; a nation asking African nations for food aid. Widespread famine was the result of Kim Jong Il’s 37 years of rule, but he was praised in the editorial as a man of greatness unparalleled in 5,000 years of history, meaning that his loss was greater than that of his father, Kim Il Sung.
The idolization of Kim Jong Il, now at a level beyond Kim Il Sung, stems from the strong urge to convince the people of the qualities of new leader Kim Jong Eun. It even claimed, “Respected comrade Kim Jong Eun is great comrade Kim Jong Il.” But at the same time it moved to shift responsibility for Kim Jong Il’s most lasting legacy of all, the complete collapse of food distribution, a concomitant famine and the arrival of chronic food insecurity, away from Kim Jong Eun and onto cadres and workers.
“The fighting power of Party organizations and the revolutionary spirit of workers will solve the food problem,” it claimed, simultaneously downgrading the promise of entry into the ‘Strong and Prosperous State’ to one of revival.
In essence, we need to establish what the fundamentals of the editorial really are. From there, the South Korean government needs to decide whether inducing the Kim Jong Eun regime towards opening has the potential to be effective, and to as quickly as possible decide what Seoul’s strategy should be.
Unfortunately, we need to rid ourselves of the hope that if we do a favor for Kim Jong Eun he will change his stance for us.
North Korea’s leaders have told us that they will carry on the policies of the late Kim Jong Il and wield his ‘last instructions’ in justification for their policy decisions for the foreseeable, making it hard to believe that situation on the Korean Peninsula will get any better. As such, South Korea should squarely face the Kim Jong Eun system and prepare strategies to deal with it. Through collaboration with the U.S., Japan and if possible China, we need to establish a posture free of cracks and illusions.