- My Second Picture-less Post -
But I'm getting ahead of myself, first, a little background on North Korea and Kim Jong-Il. Well, basically if you're interested you should probably just read this BBC profile on the country, its history, and its leaders since its emergence as a country post WWII. But in a nutshell, Kim Jong-Il assumed power 17 years ago after the death of his father, Kim Il-Sung who shaped North Korea into the totalitarian state that it is today.
Kim Jong-Il continued the policies of his father, all the while extorting foreign aid with the threat of continued nuclear proliferation if aid is not received. And while the US provides a decent portion of the country's food (most of which goes to the military instead of the citizens), China has always been the primary benefactor for N. Korea (And here's an interesting read about that).
And so, we were left with a country run by an unpredictable dictator, who had convinced his people that he was essentially a god (and those who weren't convinced still had to act the part or be punished, imprisoned, or killed), who had unknown access to nuclear materials, who was extorting aid from countries around the world, and who sealed off his people completely from outside information.
And then, on December 17th, 2011, Kim Jong-Il died. He had a heart attack during a train ride and that was that. Before his death, he had been grooming his song, Kim Jong-Un for leadership, but he had yet to officially name him as his successor.
At the time I found out about his death, I was teaching a class to 3 moms and I was very curious what their reaction would be. It was strange, but they just sort of laughed and said "well I hope we don't have to go to war now," and that was also that.
And basically, nothing has changed since then. Kim Jong-Un has officially taken over North Korea, the S. Koreans that I've spoken with don't seem overly concerned, and everyone is just sort of...waiting to see what happens. So, I guess we'll see. During the last year, N. Korea did begin to open a bit, allowing cell phones for the first time within its borders. Hopefully this trend will continue and the people of N. Korea can eventually start to see the full reality of their situation. Hopefully Kim Jong-Un will be a more reasonable leader than his father. And Hopefully the intoxication of complete power over a country won't go to the head of a relatively inexperienced 20-something. Hopefully.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with a little lightheartedness to pass the time until some fresh news arrives.
Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things
Kim Jong-Un Looking at Things
And coming within the next week or so... A 3 part epic odyssey of my journey to Laos!
(In case you missed any of the article links above, here they are again)
N. Korea Profile
Kim Jong-Il's Funeral
What's Next for N. Korea
Kim Jong-Un Profile
China's Aid to N. Korea
US Aid to N. Korea
Cell Phones in N. Korea
Photos of Kim Jong-Il's funeral