Sunday Report

By | February 12, 2012 | 5 Comments


via Global Times, Feb. 6, 2012

 A short Sunday report from Seattle… — Adam Cathcart, Editor-in-Chief

- Adam Cathcart, “How Weibo ‘Killed’ Kim Jong-un,” The Diplomat, February 11, 2012, http://the-diplomat.com/2012/02/11/how-weibo-“killed”-kim-jong-un/

So what to make of Friday’s talk? Jaundiced irony is hardly a monopoly of the Western press when covering North Korea, but some of the analysis of the Kim Jong-un rumors was, frankly, a little embarrassing. Gawker, Huffington Post and Reuters, all weighed in, sometimes inexplicably relying on unedited Google translations. Apparently content with the “Babel,” no one bothered to check or cite the North Korean state organ, the Rodong Sinmun (the newspaper does, after all, have a website). On the day he was supposedly killed, Kim Jong-un was on the website’s front page – he had received a gift from Kuwait – although there was no clear evidence he was actually there for the event.

As the next edition rolled out on the morning of February 11 local time, Kim Jong-un was said to be accepting condolences from neighbors. North Korean journalists gave a subtle nod to the Weibo rumors by including two pictures of Kim Jong-un with his dead father in a new Rodong Sinmun photo gallery, highlighted in red as if to say “hello foreign journalists.” These aren’t insignificant items: since the January 8 documentary film extravaganza celebrating Kim Jong-un, such photo montages of the deceased father havebeen inexplicably sloppy in omitting Kim Jong-un, going so far as to include Jang Song Taek, the so-called “regent” of North Korea who has shown hints of developing his own nascent cult of personality.

But there was one detail that would have led at least some faint credibility to Friday’s rumors – the absence of the leader at any events on February 8, which on the North Korean calendar is the anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army.  For a young man so obviously determined to align himself with both the soul of the army and its founder, it seems more than a little odd that February 8 would pass without another opportunity being taken to go cheek-to-jowl with the troops.  While  Kim Jong-un’s absence might be chalked up to modesty in the shadow of his father’s approaching birthday, this, more than notes on the number of cars in Beijing, could serve as “evidence” that something was out of the ordinary in the North Korean inner sanctum.

 The above Diplomat piece serves as the pièce de résistance in the following round-up of the Kim Jong-un rumors: Palash R. Ghosh, “Kim Jong-un: The Assassination that Never Happened,” International Business Times, February 12, 2012, http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/297035/20120211/kim-jong-un-north-korea-weibo-assasination.htm
Incidentally, there were no photos or on-site inspections for Kim Jong-un today, either, but this can be easily explained away: it’s his father’s immense 70th birthday coming up, and appearing as a symbol — like in these fireworks and slogans over Jong-il peak — makes more more potent in any case. Finally, Rodong Sinmun reported today on what appears to have been a relatively large Kim Jong-il commemorative event in Beijing on February 9.
- Pang Zhongying [庞中英], Syria Moves Toward Regime Change: Making a Shock to the Situation on the Korean Peninsula [叙利亚若变天,将冲击朝鲜半岛的局势], Huanqiu Shibao[Global Times], February 6, 2012 (translated by Adam Cathcart, February 8, 2012) http://adamcathcart.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/huanqiu-nk-syria/

Syria and the Assad regime are extremely similar to North Korea in Northeast Asia. If the young Assad [小阿萨德] has difficulty holding power or ultimately fails, this is tantamount to a blow upon the newly-born [诞生不久] Kim Jong Un regime. This is because Kim Jong Un and the young Assad’s situations are almost precisely the same: both took power in hereditary succession from their fathers….Seeing things this way, the impact of a Syrian regime change [变天] would absolutely not be limited to the Middle East; in fact, its impact would be felt as far away as North Korea.

If the masses succeed in overthrowing young Assad’s Syrian regime, it can be estimated that the United States and South Korea would take it as a huge inspiration [预计美国和韩国将受到巨大的启发], a breakthrough with which to inspire North Korea’s domestic opposition[朝鲜国内的反对派身上]. Some South Korean scholars believe that North Korea is a kingly system of hereditary succession, and that the [North Korean] people have, more or less, been long accustomed to it, but, if the Syrian people can overthrow their hereditary leaders, the North Korean people can also do so.

Kim Jong Il Takes a Postmortem Victory Lap on Mt. Kumgang -- Rodong Sinmun, Feb. 12, 2012

5 Comments

  1. 호랑이와 날개? Not sure how that would be stated.

    In any case, here’s my favorite description of what may (possibly) have happened — I suppose we still “don’t really know” — which is representative of our “knowledge” of happenings inside the Hermit Kingdom (via Stephan Haggard: http://www.piie.com/blogs/nk/?p=5022):

    “Possible that someone said he ‘murdered an enormous family-sized bucket of fried chicken,’ and something got lost in translation.”

    New movie theme?

  2. Interesting post. The official anniversary of the founding of the KPA is 25 April not 8 February. A review of the history of NK media coverage of the event, particularly in major anniversary years, would tell you much about how the leadership typically marks the anniversary.

  3. Thanks, Illom, for the informed comment. And yes, Feb. 8 remains the anniversary, but Kim Il Sung moved it to April 25 in the late 1970s, for reasons which are not entirely clear to me, even though I spent some time last week perusing his Works 1978-85; so it’s something to revisit.

    You seem to be pretty sharp; if you’re interested in submitting an essay with some analysis that is more to your liking (more historical caveats, which would be fine by me!), please do, it isn’t necessary to reveal your identity if you’d prefer, as long as the content is solid, I’d be happy to run it (and it would further give me an excuse to refine and get our “Call for Papers” up to snuff and posted). Hope to read more comments from you in the future; thanks for stopping by.

  4. The 8 Feb date is historically legit. The point is that they just don’t mark it publicly anymore, and the analytic point in your article hinges on the intimation that they usually do.

  5. Point taken. The other hinge was that he was mentioned in Rodong Sinmun, and no one bothered to look. But back to Feb. 8: Institutional memory aside — also the fact that if Kim Jong Un were in fact the student of history that he is said to be (his 16-years-of-age alleged essay on his grandpa’s brilliant tactical work during the Korean War being one example) — if it were April 25 and he didn’t show up, then something would be far more seriously amiss than a Feb. 8. Of course the fact that we’re having this debate on the details, to me anyway, gets us to a better place than we were on Feb. 10 (very, very low level of analysis for the most part, hopefully we agree on that). Nothing like a speed campaign!

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