The newspaper headline pretty much says it all:
At the Kim Il-sung centenary celebration at the North Korean embassy in Pretoria, Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Sotyu was the most recent South African politician to stick her foot in her mouth, drawing “father of the nation” comparisons between the late dictator and former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Her department quickly backed away from her public remarks, with one unnamed official commenting “We have nothing to gain from a relationship with North Korea, so we just keep quiet and home no one asks about it.”
Well, maybe not quiet enough.
I was so astonished by Sotyu’s remarks that I came up with this brief catechism to distinguish these two individuals.
Nelson Mandela was a royal who dropped the trappings privilege and built a political movement as a commoner.
Kim Il-sung was a commoner who built a cult of personality that likened him to a god.
Nelson Mandela: multi-party, multi-racial democracy.
Kim Il-sung: race-based juche nationalism.
Kim Il-sung built prison camps where people were tortured and killed.
Nelson Mandela: spent 27 years in a prison where people were tortured and killed.
Nelson Mandela: voluntarily surrendered power and established a precedent for peaceful democratic determination of executive leadership in post-apartheid South Africa.
Kim Il-sung: established a precedent of dynastic transition based on hereditary privilege in post-colonial North Korea.
Kim Il-sung: made many propaganda films about himself.
Nelson Mandela’s bio pic, Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood and starrting Morgan Freeman, earned Academy Award nominations.
My wife and I considered naming our son after Nelson Mandela.
My wife and I never thought of naming our son after Kim Il-sung.
In sum, it is hard to think of a prominent person in contemporary history less like Kim Il-sung than Nelson Mandela. Maybe Archbishop Tutu can explain this to Deputy Minister Sotyu.