Whilst the mainstream media understandably focuses on Egypt, signs that the world's most totalitarian and brutal dictatorship by far is slowly unravelling are becoming more prevalent.
The latest being a series of reports of Kim Jong Il's increasingly erratic and unpredictable behaviour, including losing his memory. The most profound example being one when he forgot his father - "Great Leader" and officially eternal President Kim Il Sung - has been dead since 1994.
“In December, 2009 when he visited Sungjin Steel Manufacturing Complex in Kim Chaek, North Hamkyung Province, Kim received a report on the ‘Completion of the process for the manufacturing of Juche steel.’ Taking up the report, he said, ‘Report this fact immediately to the Suryeong!’ The people there were totally embarrassed.”
Suryeong is Korean for "Great Leader" and was a commonly used pronoun for Kim Il Sung.
The same article cites Kim Jong Il being angry in 2009 about the name of a college having been changed, even though it was he who did it in 2003. He also was angry at the dismissal of a man who he had fired the year before.
There are plenty of example of dictators losing the plot due to drug use (Macias Nguema, Ali Soilih), but this would indicate Kim Jong Il 's day are very much numbered.
Meanwhile, the elder brother of designated successor Kim Jong Eun, Kim Jong Nam has held a press interview with Tokyo Shimbun where he hopes his brother opens up the country to reform., but acknowledges it could bring systemic collapse of the entire political system. Kim Jong Nam reportedly lives in China or Macau, and has been fairly open with foreign press about the situation in the country. He personally opposes his brother succeeding his father and claimed Kim Jong Il himself opposed it, but has proceeded to ensure "political stability". He has also claimed no interest at all in returning to North Korea to have a political life.
Other reports are:
- Black market DVDs of South Korean films, music and TV programmes are seeping in showing for the first time life in South Korea, which has been officially depicted as poverty stricken and brutal. Youth of higher officials and Party members have this material. Such material entering the country was unheard of a decade ago.
- Leaflets denouncing the regime are circulating, as more and more people bravely seek to undermine the regime. Be clear that this was completely unheard of for the last 60 years in a country that has consistently had the worst or second worst press freedom in the world.
- Video of a group called Young People's League for Freedom openly defying the regime, desecrating images of Kim Jong Il (video not online).
Meanwhile, 154,000 political prisoners are held in the most brutal gulags on the planet in North Korea. You'd think human rights organisations and so called peace campaigners would be holding placards outside North Korean embassies and demanding change. However, given the US has always been an implacable enemy of the country, and virtually no foreign companies have a presence there, I don't think their heart would be in it - which tells you a bit about what that agenda really is about. After all if torturing and enslaving children as political prisoners can't get you agitated, then can you really be said to be interested in human rights?
Unlike the organisations like HRNK, North Korea Freedom Coalition and Liberty in North Korea which campaign openly about the atrocities in North Korea, and actively provide help for refugees who flee via China, where officials happily hand refugees back to the regime to be executed or brutalised.
Egypt is a holiday camp compared to North Korea. Yet although North Korea has nuclear weapons and a destructive ideology, it is not as destructive and aggressive as Islamism. Nobody gets called a racist for damning those who think Kim Il Sung was great or that Marxism-Leninism is destructive and pernicious. Nobody thinks that criticising the North Korean political system is a criticise of people themselves or derogatory towards them.
In that respect, whilst North Korea's collapse will be interesting and highly relevant to its neighbours, and potentially dangerous in the short term. Egypt's future has a far more existential influence about our lives. I am not too worried about the handful of useful idiots in New Zealand who sympathise with North Korea, but Islamists are another story altogether.