The definition of an Elf: A small, often mischievous creature considered to have magical powers. A lively, mischievous child. A usually sprightly or mischievous or sometimes spiteful person.
On Sunday the world was semi-shocked to learn of the death of North Korea’s president and self-made god, Kim Jong il. To many westerners the deceased reminded them of a J.R.R. Tolkien fictional “Elf King” with a taste for expensive cognac.
Side A…Dark Humor
He was the largest consumer of Hennessey Cognac in the world, he had a collection of over 20,000 bootleg movies. He had 17 bachelor pads and he wore 5-inch platform shoes. He had his own personal armored train filled with luxury cars and he laughed at leaders from around the world. He was the most interesting man in the world…. No he was not the Dos Equis Man, he was Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s supreme Communist leader and yes, he was certifiably insane. May he be at peace, wherever the spirit of elf kings go.
Side B…The stark realities of a Paranoid State
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, known simply to 99.9 percent of the world as North Korea, is an ultra secretive country that is full of paradoxes. A land that is blessed with a breathtaking panoramic view of majestic mountains and beautiful valleys, there is also the dark and contrasting reality of “soul-less cities”.
Located in East Asia, it occupies the northern portion of the Korean Peninsula. Geographically in size, North Korea encompasses an area that totals roughly 120,540 square kilometers (46,541 sq mi). North Korea shares land borders with The People’s Republic of China and Russia to the north, and borders South Korea along the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (DMZ) To its west are the Yellow Sea and the Korea Bay, and to its east lies Japan across the Sea of Japan.
Modern in architecture but devoid of any real spark that ignites spontaneous human emotion that in return begets creativity and individuality, North Korean cities such as P’yŏngyang, population 3,255,288 (2008 estimates) and Hamhŭng, population 768,551 (2008 estimates) were created / built for the same reason a magician creates an illusion before a crowd of curious spectators.
In the world of magic, the primary function of the illusion is to fool and to impress an audience into believing the magician’s trick.
The trick that the recently deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong il clumsily performed in his “act” involved using modern architectural buildings and monuments as the “smoke and mirrors” in his magic show. Ultimately, the North Korean “magic act” was designed to convince the few foreigners that are allowed to enter “The Hermit Kingdom” – especially preying western eyes – that North Korea is indeed a robust and independently thriving nation, full of self-reliant and patriotic citizens.
In reality, North Koreans are one bad rice harvest away from starving. The cost of building modern cities without the government investing in sufficient agricultural programs to feed its nearly 24 million population (2009 estimates) has left the average North Korean in a state of malnutrition.
During the 1990s, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Empire, North Korea faced crippling economic disruptions, including a series of natural disasters, economic mismanagement and serious resource shortages. These shortages resulted in a shortfall of more than 1 million tons of grains / rice; an amount that plunged North Korea into a great famine.
The infamous three year famine known as “Arduous March” caused the death of an estimated 1.5 million North Koreans. In 1997 the famine officially ended with many of the world health organizations attributing the majority of deaths to famine-related illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea rather than starvation.
In 2006, Amnesty International published a report that illustrated that a national nutrition survey conducted by the North Korean government, the World Food Program, and UNICEF found that 7% of North Korea’s children were severely malnourished; 37% were chronically malnourished; 23.4% were underweight; and one in three mothers was malnourished and anemic as the result of the lingering effect of the famine.
Note: Former West Indian World Lightweight Champion Boxer Livingston Bramble once said before his historic fight with Boom Boom Mancini in 1984, “A hungry person is a dangerous person”.
A war that has never ended
Shortly after Japan’s defeat in World War II, Japanese long-time control of the Korean peninsula abruptly ended. The United Nations divided the country at the 38th parallel, a move that in August 1945, enabled the Soviet government and the U.S. government to establish two separate Korean governments, each designed to interact more friendlier with it’s “foster parents”.
In 1950 the hostilities between the two governments increased and with the support of a now nuclear Russia and the support of “big brother” communist China, the North Korean army invaded and attacked it’s brethren in the south. The invasion triggered a three-year war fought between blood brothers and armies supported by three emerging super powers; the United States, Russia and China. In the end there were over 2 million casualties and the infamous “Cold War” between Communism and Democracy had officially began: the modern era of spy vs. spy à la James Bond was born.
Although no official peace treaty has ever been signed, there is an uneasy agreement between north and south to cease ongoing military aggression.
A portion of the armistice observed between North and South Korea firmly established a strip of land that is 250 kilometers (160 miles) long and approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) wide that runs across the Korean Peninsula and serves as a buffer zone between the two hostile nations. This strip of land is known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone or simply the DMZ. To this very day, the DMZ is one of the most heavily fortified and guarded areas of land in the world that separates two opposing / hostile countries.
Although not exactly certain when North Korea became a nuclear power, all western military experts from around the world acknowledge that North Korea has a nuclear and chemical stockpile and has the launching ability to strike with accuracy a number of targets, including Alaska.
From the end of World War II until Sunday’s “official” pronouncement of Kim Jon il’s death, North Korea has only had two leaders, Kim il Sung and Kim Jong il. Each dictator had ruled their country with such a heavy cloak of secrecy, human rights violations and military aggression that when the word “paranoid” is looked up in Webster’s Dictionary, a picture of the North Korean nation and its past two leaders appear.
With a military force whose regular and reserve forces total more than 9 million strong, and with an aging leader who is fond of drinking cognac and watching Godfather movies, it would be prudent to keep a vigil eye on the latest antics stemming from the North Korean government and its powerful military. Kim Jong il’s successor to power will most likely remain his youngest (known) son Jong Un and if he’s anything like his dad and his granddad, China’s “Little Brother” aka North Korea will be the cause of much “heartburn” in many governments worldwide.
The success of North Korea’s diplomacy which is based on childish ranting and dangerous attention getting can be attributed to their government’s need / inability to feed 24 million people, while simultaneously keeping one finger on the “nuclear button”, not to mention being backed up by a 9 million man military force.
It’s unfortunate that the North Korean government by continuing to follow a flawed ideology called Juche (self-reliance) is in reality, its own worst enemy. An enemy within itself that begets paranoia and hunger.
Remember the words of West Indian boxing legend Livingston Bramble, “A hungry person is a dangerous person”. This is exactly why North Korea should be considered as the world’s most dangerous country.
As always, The New Orleans Examiner is always interested in what you think, should North Korea be “approached” with extra care because of their new government instability due to the death of Kim Jong il and because of their nuclear capabilities or should we let China and Russia (its two “foster parents”) along with the threat of dissolving pending Western business deals, exclusively handle their wayward relative? Inquiring minds want to know.
Until next time Louisianans, Good Day, God Bless and Good Fishing.