Monday, December 19, 2011

do NOT ululate

Hitchens, Havel, Jong-il... I guess everyone's trying to get their deaths in before the end of the year. Will 2012 be a bad year to die?

It's being reported that Kim Jong-il is dead, but until I see definite confirmation of this, I'm inclined to be skeptical. Besides, even if the man is dead, do you expect there to be a softening of the rule of the Kimist dynasty? As Malcolm just wrote:

One of the consistent lessons of history, from Aristagoras to Gorbachev, is that authoritarian systems place themselves at great risk when they attempt to liberalize.

Humans being human, the above wisdom applies as much to North Korea as to anywhere else: there's no NK liberalization in the cards. We in the West often forget how thankful we should be that we have peaceful transfers of power, without having to worry about whether the end of one administration will spell total chaos. The more cynical among you might scoff, but we handle our transitions in a spirit of trust that's a damn sight more civilized than what dictators have to do: in oppressive dictatorships, transfer of power always comes with risk.

For North Korea right now, the main risk is that the newest leader, "Young General" Kim Jeong-eun (I'm assuming he will be the successor), is too young to take the reins effectively. He may quickly become a puppet of whichever puppet-masters have been awaiting this moment. Will this new situation lead to internal strife that somehow explodes outward to North Korean society as a whole? I somehow doubt it. We've been predicting the regime's collapse for years, and it's disappointed us at every turn. It's more likely that internal stability-- even if this means the augmentation of repression-- will be maintained.

We'll see. For now, I'm just waiting for confirmation that the old bastard has kicked the bucket. If he has, I hope South Korea breaks out into collective song, and that this image gets broadcast to the generals up north. But here, too, I doubt this will happen.

Kim Jong-il is one of those people who makes me wish I believed in hell. I do hope he is gone.

UPDATE: Wild-eyed speculation about intense power struggles and regime collapse at the Marmot's Hole. It's almost as if no one remembers 1994, when Kim Il-sung karked it. I was in Seoul at the time. Nothing happened. Taxi drivers I spoke with all had the same attitude: a big, New Yawka-style shrug: Eeeeeeeyyyy, whadaya?

UPDATE 2: I've emailed my Korean insiders to get their opinion, as Koreans, on what this all means. One leans right; the other leans left (and they're siblings!). I hope to hear from them in the next couple days.

UPDATE 3: Kim Jong-il has apparently been dead at least two days. Way to go, SK intelligence! SK's military is on high alert and government officials are primed for action. Whatever that might mean. Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop humping sheep.

UPDATE 4: SK markets are taking a tumble, but a Marmot's Hole commenter says this isn't what it appears to be. The tumble is a typical reaction to rumblings from NK: "[South Koreans] are waiting for the stocks to hit bottom before buying them at bargain prices and [then selling] them when [the market] bounces back a few days, a couple of weeks later max, for a quick profit. It’s a pattern I call the NK Fluctuation. It has made me a lot of money over the years." (See here.)


1 comment:

Elisson said...

Is there a good year to die? (Unless you're talking about someone other than yourself, that is.)