LACERDA: A son rises in North Korea

John LaCerda

Amidst an all-consuming conflict with the nations of Iran and Syria over alleged nuclear weapons, it remains easy to forget about the dangers associated with North Korea and their ludicrous leader, Mr. Kim Jong-il. On Sunday, the youngest son of the North Korean leader was reportedly named to the National Defense Commission, an indication that he will eventually take power over his father’s communist government. Similar to the situation in Cuba with the reins of power having passed from brother to brother, this family networking of political weight will surely have a big impact on the democratic world.

It was not until I first relished in the pure brilliance of the film Team America that I fully understood the influence of North Korea’s president. Although I found the content of script to be blatantly vulgar and outrageous, I admired directors Matt Stone and Trey Parker in their depiction of Jong-il as lonely, sympathetic individual with a soft heart but a troubled mind. While I laughed at his ugly stature and snickered at his goofy accent, I also became intrigued to learn more about his political agenda and social lifestyle. What I found was shocking.

CNN describes the North Korean chairman as “one of the most mysterious leaders in the world,” and rightfully so. There is no official information available about his marital history not to mention his infrequent media appearances add to his reputation as the sole provider of the country’s isolated policies and relations. Kim has a fear of flying and is said to be a huge film buff, owning a collection of more than 20,000 video tapes. He reportedly loves American basketball, refers to himself as an Internet expert, and has seventeen different palaces and residences. For the past fifteen years he has worked for economic reform in order to overcome floods and droughts from the early 90s. Despite his domestic improvements and military advancements, however, Kim is still regarded as one of the most dangerous men in the world.

When the North Korean Central News Agency declared it had successfully conducted an underground nuclear test in October of 2006, the world received its first indication that this communist nation and its aggressive leader would pose problems with future diplomatic relations; I have not been able to pick up a news magazine in the past three years without reading a quick blurb on Korean relations. His established personality cult, no doubt a symbol of his authoritative doctrines of legislation, gives us reason to regard his figure as genuine hero worship. Ultimately, Kim’s god-like image in the eyes of his people added with his persistent resistance to nuclear reduction has created this notion of fear among both leaders and civilians.

Reported to have had a stroke last summer, Kim’s health at age 67 has been poor to say the least. Regardless of his condition, however, the appointment of his son as successor erases any hope for a new, more capitalist oriented Korea. Growing up, I always believed Jong-Il’s presence to be more of a threat rather than a benefit to the world. The post-world war II arms race between the Russians and us was a reality that should never be reiterated and re-lived. Although conflicts in the Middle East and Africa have consumed our military resources and exhausted our diplomatic agencies, it is vital that we invest serious finances into our relations with North Korea in order to prevent a possible confrontation.

Mr. Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, 26, will expectedly follow and adhere to his father’s institutions and laws. Moreover, the production of nuclear arms, representing one of the greatest threats to humanity’s survival, will never cease. Advances in technology will prevent any chances of completing eradicating North Korea’s nuclear industry, but if we focus our efforts on solidifying a strong relationship with the new leader as well as urging reduction in military production then we can hopefully receive some comfort knowing that a nuclear attack is far from a possibility. When Jong-Il finally dies it will merely be the end of a life, not the end of a threat.