Dear Leader, departed
Dec 20th 2011, 0:20 by D.T. and G.E. | SEOUL and BEIJING
THE tyrant has perished, leaving a failing, nuclear-armed nation in the uncertain young hands of his “Great Successor”. His father, since 1994 the "Dear Leader" of one of the world’s most secretive and repressive states (iconic, to the right in the photo above), died on a train at 8.30am on Saturday morning, of a heart attack. North Korea's 69-year-old supremo had been in poor health: he had heart disease and diabetes, and suffered a stroke in 2008. Nonetheless his demise places sudden and extraordinary pressure on his third son, his designated but untested successor, Kim Jong Un (to the left, in the photo above).
Kim junior—recently dubbed the “Young General”—is now officially in charge of North Korea. His dynastic succession, which had been in preparation since 2009, was reaffirmed swiftly by the state media (as swiftly as the 51 hours it took to announce the elder Kim’s death). The machinery of party and propaganda are organised to support a smooth succession. That does not mean its success is assured. At just 27 or perhaps 28 years of age, the young Un, educated in Switzerland and a great fan of basketball, wants for both experience and proof of loyalty from the armed forces. He was installed as the country’s leader-in-waiting little more than a year ago. By contrast his father had been groomed for leadership for nearly 20 years, with careful attention paid to establishing for him a cult of personality in the image of his own father, the dynasty’s founding dictator, Kim Il Sung.
That Kim Jong Un has no such background may be cause more for anxiety than for relief. His only qualification to lead the country is to be the son of a man who all but destroyed it, and a grandson of the man who built its disastrous brand of totalitarianism. In the 17 years Kim Jong Il ruled since the death of Kim Il Sung, North Korea teetered on the brink of collapse. A devastating famine in the mid-1990s killed as many as a million of his countrymen, while Kim Jong Il indulged his own appetites to excess and diverted massive resources to his dream, now realised, of building a nuclear weapon.
A third Kim may be a step too far. This succession’s viability may well depend on the work of a “regent”: Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law, Chang Sung Taek. He and his wife, Kim Kyong Hui, appear to have accompanied the Young General’s elevation in lockstep, as those who might stand in his (and their) way have been pushed aside. The ruling elite around the family trinity might appear cohesive from a distance, but they are potentially vulnerable to intrigue. North Korea’s is a government of obscure and competing factions—the army, the Korean Workers’ Party and the cabinet being the greatest—and any uncertainty or crisis in the months ahead could upset the delicate balance behind the dictatorship.
In the very short term though, it seems unlikely that anyone will make a move. Bruce Cumings, a professor of history at the University of Chicago, argues that the cohort of officials who rose during Kim Jong Il’s reign “are now in power and have much privilege to protect”. Even those who privately oppose Kim Jong Un will proclaim loyalty for now. China, fearing instability, will support the succession in so far as it promises to maintain order and prevent a flood of refugees from spilling over its border.
Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, called Kim Jong Il “a great leader of North Korean people and a close and intimate friend of Chinese people”. Zhang Liangui of the Central Party School in Beijing however told Caijing magazine that China’s policy has been developed with regard for “North Korea the country, not Kim Jong Il the man”. For many years Chinese leaders tried in vain to convince Kim Jong Il to embrace Chinese-style economic reforms; they might yet choose to push those reforms with renewed vigour.
The optimists’ argument would be that the time is ripe for such an overture, and that the West should join with its own. The year 2012, the hundredth anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, is supposed to be the year that North Korea becomes a “strong and prosperous nation” (kangsong taeguk). The domestic justification for reform could go like so: Kim Jong Il built the nuclear weapons that made his nation “strong”, regardless of whether North Korea might choose to give them up; now it is the time make the country “prosperous”. “Diplomatically, that’s where you want to engage with them,” says John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul who watches China and North Korea. “Okay, you got strength, you’re secure. Now let’s work on prosperity together.”
Sceptics, a group who were proved right under the late Leader time and again, argue that the regime’s elite circles will be loth to abandon the systems of patronage and rent-seeking that have so enriched them. Moreover, any meaningful effort to open up the economy risks exposing the state’s ruling mythology. It has long been shielded from contamination by such inconveniences as facts.
Given a choice, the people might prefer facts to mythology, and real economic well-being over juche (loosely, self-reliance, or autarky). Local television reports are filled with the requisite footage of wailing on the streets of Pyongyang, where the more privileged and well-fed reside, but these images do not offer much insight into the reaction of the impoverished countryside. One NGO worker with extensive contacts around the country states that though they “lived under undeniable fear with Kim Jong Il as the leader of the nation, they are surely even more fearful with him gone.” Without even the barest infrastructure of civil society, lacking most of the tools of modern technology, the rural population of North Korea cannot be fruitfully compared to the victims of repression in the Middle East who are trying to make good on the Arab Spring.
North Korea's fate may depend in some measure, then, on how the rest of the world chooses to grapple with the new leadership, and vice versa. The death of Kim Il Sung in 1994 was quickly followed by the completion of an “agreed framework”, negotiated with the Clinton administration, that had seemed to sideline North Korea’s nuclear programme. Last week, immediately prior to Kim Jong Il’s death, there were whispers of a possible thaw in relations. North Korea is in desperate need of food aid, and the United States had agreed to ship nearly a quarter of a million tonnes of grain—on the condition of its suspending its uranium-enrichment programme. A familiar stumbling block, by now, and seemingly final. Just a week ago though a spokesman for the American state department said that the provision of “nutritional assistance” could be considered separately from the nuclear question. Facing an election year of its own however, Barack Obama may find it difficult to pursue a new, softer line on North Korea, even with a new Kim.
Another approach could come from South Korea, but perhaps not until after its parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012. The sitting president, Lee Myung-bak, has defined his term in office with a hawkish stance towards the North. The South’s public reaction to Kim’s death was relatively muted: The KOSPI index of leading Korean stocks fell at first but then stabilised. Ordinary South Koreans have been debating whether or not condolences should be sent (as Pyongyang did when Kim Dae-jung, a former president of South Korea, died in 2009). Some have taken to criticising the country’s intelligence capabilities. The timing of Mr Lee’s visit to Japan on Saturday, December 17th, makes it seem plain that none of South Korea’s spooks were aware of Kim Jong Il’s fate until the official announcement was broadcast. That happened to fall on the president’s birthday; his party was cancelled at the last minute.
A spokesman for Mr Lee, Cho Hyun-jin, says that he is “cautiously optimistic” about North-South relations, and notes that he is in close contact with leaders in Japan, America, and Russia. Mr Lee’s term in office has been marked by severe tensions with North Korea. In November 2010, the North shelled a South Korean island, killing two civilians. Earlier in the same year it was accused of sinking a South Korean naval vessel with a torpedo, killing 46 sailors. Those may prove to have been the last two attacks to have been carried out at the order of Kim Jong Il. But some observers have attributed them to the “Great Successor” as rites of initiation.
Kim Jong Il’s funeral, which may provide the first opportunity for assessing the regime’s new pecking order, is to take place on December 28th. (Intriguingly, Mr Chang, the Great Successor’s chief regent, is ranked a lowly 19th on the official list of attendants.) The late Kim’s record, according to Mr Cumings, will be one of “failure at almost every level, except the critical one of maintaining maximum power for his family and the regime”. We will soon see whether or not Kim Jong Un—the youngest leader in the world to command a nuclear arsenal—has such staying power, or such unfortunate consequences for his people. The months ahead will be most telling. Mr Zhang, of the Central Party School in Beijing, makes a wry nod to his own country’s experience. Uttering the ritual platitudes of succession and actually carrying it out are two very different things. “Socialist countries are like this,” he says. “There's a certain distance between legal procedure and actual practice.”
(Picture credit: AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS)
A Dutch firm proposed a "cloud" design connecting two buildings in South Korea, which some say looks like the World Trade Center on 9/11.
面對來自各個方面的壓力以及互聯網環境的變化，互聯網實名制已經有鬆動的跡象。韓國主管部門“放送通信委員會”於2011年3月份發布實名制對象網站時，將社交網站排除在實名制對像在外。理由是包括Facebook、Twitter以及韓國me2day在內的社交網站屬於私人領域，不應適用實名制。不僅是來自國內的批評，韓國的互聯網實名制也遭到一些來自國外的批評。 2011年9月，《紐約時報》刊登了一篇題為《網上命名》(Naming Names on the Internet)的文章，批評稱：“韓國的經驗證明實名制是劣等政策”。
Taiwan receiving missile fire units
WALTHAM, Mass., Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Taiwan is receiving Raytheon new fire units for the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System through a $685.7 million U.S. Foreign Military Sales contract.
Raytheon, in announcing the award, said the fire units for the Patriot system feature advanced technology and upgraded man-machine interface.
Work on the units for Taiwan will be conducted at company facilities in Massachusetts, Texas and Alabama.
Raytheon didn't disclose a delivery schedule for the products.
In 2008, Raytheon was contracted to upgrade Taiwan's existing Patriot systems and was contracted the following year to provide new Patriot systems. It also delivered a Configuration-3 upgraded radar system to Taiwan this year.
"Raytheon's excellent performance for this customer on current and past contracts continues to drive trust, as we deliver superior technology and support for Taiwan's protection," said Sanjay Kapoor, vice president for Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business.