Here’s some recent example of governments’ attempts to block out the Internet – particularly in those countries where, to some extent, the proverbial cat is already out of the bag. (Once people have access to the Internet and some modicum of wealth, getting them to give it up is a lot harder – another reason North Korea and Eritrea present something of a perfect scenario to many dictatorial regimes).
Although these are disturbing cases of government repression in action, I also find these cases rather heartening – mainly because government attempts to prevent Internet access rarely last very long, or work particularly well. It’s also worth pointing out that stagnant development and heavy censorship have a nasty habit of going hand-in-hand.
The Dear Leader only gave one public speech during his time as ruler of North Korea, and it wasn’t exactly lengthy. In fact, all he said was “Long Live the Heroic Korean Army,” according to journalist Nate Thayer, who was present at the time.
It’s kinda like the King’s Speech, but 80% less touching.
Gentleman: are you short, squat, and toad-like? Capable of rocking a pompadour and push-up shoes? Have I got a growth industry for you. It’s like Elvis without the singing or charisma.
I’m not entirely sure WHY Kim Jong-il lying in state in a glass coffin reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. Trying not to read into it too much. I love the quavering voice of the commentator. Also, the “Circa 1942-2011” insignia on the coffin, in case you were confused.
Kim Jong-Un looks absolutely terrified. I would be too if I were him. He reminds me of nothing more than that nerdy fat kid in middle-school who drew anime cartoons at his desk all the time and refused to make eye contact with other people. And now he’s suddenly running a nuclear power. At least there’s perks. Running the DPRK comes with perks.
It would be remiss to leave the now-classic Vice Guide to North Korea out of this post, I reckon. One wonders if the DPRK’s supposed legion of highly-advanced computer hackers have figured out the dark art of Google when it comes to screening visitors – hell, Myanmar has got that one under control.
If you are reading this, North Korean hackers, let me say I have nothing but admiration for your beautiful country, and would love to visit soon so I can say all kinds of snarky things about it. Regards.
No, the hamburger was not invented in Hamburg. It did not first appear in New Jersey at Louis Lunch.The hamburger in fact first appeared in 2000 at the personal behest of Kim Jong Il, who really wanted top university students to be fed top-quality fast food in-between classes.
Eternally enterprising, Kim Jong Il decided in 2000 that he’d introduce “double bread with meat” to DPRK university students – and according to state media, seemed to take credit for the very invention of the internationally beloved specialty.
“I’ve made up my mind to feed quality bread and French fries to university students, professors and researchers even if we are in hardship,” Kim is reported to have said about the “double bread with meat” innovation, according to the New York Times.
According to Mr Fujimoto, the Dear Leader deployed his minions at great expense worldwide to places like:
“Urumqi (in northwestern China) for fruit, mainly hamigua melons and grapes Thailand for fruit, mostly durians, papayas, and mangoes Malaysia for fruit, mostly durians, papayas, and mangoes Czechoslovakia for draft beer Denmark for pork Iran for caviar Uzbekistan for caviar Japan for seafood”
The Dear Leader apparantly failed to notice – or care – about the mass famine that gripped the nation in the early 90s, but he was more than happy to deploy his squad of minions world-wide to get grapes, expensive fish, luxury fruits from as far as Western China, and sacks of McDonald’s burgers for him whenever his dark little heart so desired.
According to chef Fujimoto, whose memoir, “I was Kim Jong Il’s Personal Chef” tragically has not yet been translated into English, Kim Jong Il really did have a thing for burgers.
After the Leader’s sons came back from a stint at Swiss boarding school, they reported cheesburgers were delicious – and Fujimoto was promptly deployed to acquire some of the exotic treats from abroad. From the New York Times article:
Considering Hennessey’s incredible popularity among the moneied set here in Cambodia, the cognac does seem to have a certain appeal to too-rich-for-their-own good despots of small, unimportant nations.
From all accounts, Kim Jong Il enjoyed a remarkably elaborate diet for the supposedly salt-of-the-earth leader of the most ardently Communist nation left on Earth.
Although the people may be fed state propaganda about Kim Jong Il’s fondness for rustic meals of potatoes, barley, and gypsy tears, it’s widely known on the outside that Jong Il was dining on the finest sushi imported sushi while his people were reduced to eating bark, grass, and insects.
We can only hope that all that luxurious food hastened his fatal coronary.
Is saying that going to get me put on some sort of DPRK watchlist? That would actually be kind of awesome.
The North Korean flag is at half-mast at the DPRK Embassy located a mere 10-minute walk away from my home in Phnom Penh. The Pyongyang Restaurant here remains shuttered for a “period of mourning.”
As a hobby restaurant reviewer, I’m always interested in the culinary habits of the rich, famous, and profoundly evil – and Kim Jong Il is a fascinating subject indeed.
This gem of an article focuses on the marvelous management abilities of the recently-departed Dear Leader. It does all make a perverse sort of sense. Especially the stuff about charisma, quality control, and “embracing new technologies.”
Does this mean Kim Jong Il was like the alternate-universe evil Steve Jobs of shitty third world dictatorships?
No one can mourn like a North Korean. At the very least, no one can PRETEND to mourn like a North Korean.
In a country where not writhing on the ground overcome with emotional pain over the loss of a political icon may land you in a freezing work-camp, the ability to weep on command is a survival tactic.
Than again, all that overwrought weeping may not be faux for many present in the thousands laying flowers at the just-about-religious shrines to the younger and elder North Korean despots.
This is a nation where party messages are broadcast into your house via loudspeaker, party portraits must be kept spit-and-polish clean lest you be reported to authorities with the power to ruin both your own life and the life of everyone you love, and where every good thing that happened in the past hundred years can be directly ascribed to the North Korean leadership.
It’s likely at least some of these people really do feel as if the entire world they knew and trusted has come to a grinding, horrible halt.
Now, the world waits with bated breath to see what happens next. Will sucessor Kim Jong Un take an even more extremist path and take on the world in an attempt to prove he’s a worthy successor?
Of course – the non-entity Kim Jong Un, merely 27 and apparantly even less charismatic than his father (who did have some dark, nerdy semblance of style) will probably be controlled behind the scenes by some savvy handlers until he either attains some margin of independent spirit.
Either that, or we can await a military coup – which may be either good or bad for the rest of the world, depending on who comes to power in that particular shuffle – or (less likely) some sort of profound liberalization of the DPRK.
South Korea watches from behind the DMZ, perhaps thinking “Oh, Christ, are the hillbillies going to finally want back in?” Reunification will be both economically and culturally brutal for both nations—but then again, the starving, belagured people of North Korea deserve better. They’ve been suffering long enough.
I should add that if allegations that the 1990’s famine killed 2 million in North Korea are true – and I’m inclined to believe, though North Korea isn’t talking even if they DO know – well, that’s a human tragedy on par with the deaths that occurred under the Khmer Rouge.
Maybe the DPRK is a *little* less execution happy – but slow deaths by starvation and overwork in prison camps? Is that really much better than being shot in the head? It’s a dark question, but one the leadership of North Korea would, in a better world, have to answer.
As Kim Jong Il’s death permeates the public consicouness, expect public displays of exceptional cheesyiness for at least the next month out of North Korea. And public upheaval. Lots of political upheaval.
The response of my fellow foreign policy nerds? TAKE TO THE INTERNET, BRETHREN.
I am accepting educated guesses (or total guesses) vis a vis when Kim Jong Il actually died. Considering the North Korean’s penchant for big and orchestrated announcements of the death of leaders, I suspect the Dear Leader has been on ice for at least a week, perhaps longer. I await news of plans for the embalming with bated breath. (Does anyone do that anymore? We’ll find out soon.)
I will add that the number of tribute videos to the Dear Leader on Youtube – some set to “I’ll Be Watching You” – is already truly impressive. One of the era’s finest punchlines has died.
Some maintain Kim Jong Il in fact died of roneriness.
There are also some concerns that he in fact passed following complications from a rap battle with Hulk Hogan.