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Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

Guessing Game: Fox News, North Korea, or Hugo Chávez?

December 19th, 2010 1 comment

Ok, here’s the game… I’ve listed attributes that apply to either Fox News, the North Korean government or Hugo Chávez – Can you guess which is which? (Answers below):

Source A Source B Source C
Claims to be the only trustworthy source of information:
Says other news sources are actively undermining the country:
Evokes a siege mentality:
Uses emotional appeals and prophecies of doom to gain support:
Has suggested Barack Obama is the devil or the antichrist:
Receives funding from Middle Eastern regimes or royal families that Fox News has linked to radical Islam:
Doesn’t believe in and/or care about global warming:
Believes a malicious economic ideology threatens the nation:
Does not like Israel:
Generally despises major international organizations:
Wants to spread worldview:
Has a Twitter account:

Answers: Scroll down to bottom!

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(Source A = Hugo Chávez, Source B = Fox News, Source C = North Korean government)

Thanks for playing!

North Korea: Meet the New Boss…

October 10th, 2010 No comments
Kim Jong Un with generals at Workers' Party's 65th Anniversary

Kim Jong Il's enigmatic youngest son, Kim Jong Un, will be the next leader of North Korea.

What has been rumored for months is now official: Kim Jong Un will be the next leader of North Korea. He is the third and youngest son of Kim Jong Il, and we know almost nothing about him. We don’t know whether he was born in 1983 or 1984. Until last June, we only had one confirmed photo of him, and until last month we weren’t even sure we had his name right.

We sure as heck don’t know how he will govern.

What we do know is based almost entirely on Kim Jong Il’s former sushi chef, who escaped to Japan and lives in hiding. We know Jong Un studied at an international school in Switzerland and can speak English, along with some German and French. We know he likes skiing and basketball, and according to the sushi chef, “is a big drinker and never admits defeat.” His eldest brother was probably the favorite to succeed his father until he was caught trying to go to Tokyo Disneyland with a fake passport. His second brother was considered “too feminine” according to the sushi chef, and that left Kim Jong Un.

While this holds all of the fascination and intrigue of a petty spy novel, what most of the world wants to know is, how will this change anything politically, if at all, with North Korea? Once again, all we have to go on is that sushi chef, who described him as “exactly like his father.” But sons have a certain tendency to never turn out “exactly like their fathers,” so that leaves a lot of room for speculation. The bright unspoken hope is that North Korea could see a Juan Carlos moment, as in the hand-picked heir to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who pledged undying loyalty to the Franco military regime, only to then usher in a successful transition to democracy upon assuming power. The young Prince Juan Carlos however, unlike Kim Jong Un, was not the son of his predecessor, and secretly maintained ties to his more liberal father.

The more realistic hope is that Kim Jong Un cares about the people a little more than his father and/or is a little less paranoid of the rest of the world, considering his early exposure to it in Switzerland. This could lead to some small but positive reforms. Not everyone inside the military regime has been happy with the status quo under the senior Kim, so no doubt there will be some jockeying to see who can gain influence with the new young leader.

The way I see it, there are four basic ways that things can go:

1.) Things get a lot worse: Infighting between Kim Jong Un and other military heads leads to instability and chaos within the country. China feels a need to intervene in order to stem a flood of refugees across its border, while South Korea is paralyzed between trying to help the North Korean citizens and protecting its own people. Japan starts threatening China over fears that China is trying to extend its influence outward, and the United States cannot directly intercede without risking a conflict with China, therefore resorting to strong words and material support for South Korea. Meanwhile Kim Jong Un feels more and more pressure to set off a nuclear bomb in order to prove his strength.

2.) Things get a little bit worse: Kim Jong Un carves a path for himself almost exactly like his father’s, but proves either less adept at the diplomatic chess game or even more unpredictable than his father, leading to more arbitrary pain for the citizenry and tensions with the U.S. and neighbors.

3.) Things get a little bit better: Kim Jong Un, either convinced by advisors or through his own conviction, decides to follow the examples of China, Vietnam, and Cuba and begin a slow and controlled process of economic liberalization. Political control likely remains brutal, but citizens start to actually be able to live above subsistence levels and have a modicum of choice in how they live their lives.

4.) Things get a lot better: Over the objections of hardliners and the political old guard, Kim Jong Un forges a new course for the country that downplays military supremacy, opens the economy (at least partly) to foreign trade, allows for some level of domestic political dissent, and lets foreigners visit with greater autonomy. China appreciates the potential for trade and keeps a close alliance with Kim Jong Un government in an effort to maintain stability while he wrestles with critics inside the military. The United States and Japan welcome the change with skeptical optimism, but call for even more advances in politics and human rights, and reiterate their opposition to the nuclear weapons program. Political and economic cooperation between North and South Korea soar, leading to a new “Golden Age” in bilateral relations, and North Korea’s national soccer team makes it to the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1966, with South Koreans screaming their support on the sidelines.

We won’t know exactly how things will turn out until they do, and while outcome #4 might seem like a bit of a long shot, I’m still gunning for possibility #3. Now we just have to hope and wait.