Slave to the Blog: Juche 101 New Year's Edition

January 1, 2012 5:30 AM

Before shooting the wounded left from the death of a tyrant, let’s start with something positive and uplifting.  Back in July we did a post on SAGE, a student-led artistic activism collective at Handong University in South Korea which produced an exhibition on the horrific conditions within the North Korean political prison camp system “Where Love Does Not Exist.” Henry Song at the Defense Forum Foundation recently alerted me that SAGE has updated their website, making it easier to navigate, especially for non-Korean speakers.  Thanks for the heads-up.

Now on to detritus from the death Kim Jong-il.  Steph Haggard and co. are working up a serious analysis of who stood where during the funeral events and what this might signal about the composition of the new leadership.  Playing NY Post to his NY Times, I’ll go for the human interest angles. First up is the irony, actually the lead question in one of the interviews that I did, that the Dear Leader apparently went to his grave (technically, his embalmment) in a 1970s-vintage Lincoln Continental.  No further editorial comment necessary.

The North Koreans took the organization of the funeral to the extreme, once again releasing photo-shopped pictures and embarrassing the news organizations that play ball with them.  I wonder if they have identified the laggards who got excised from this picture.  I would not want to be one of those guys.

Lastly, just in case anyone was wondering, the National Defense Commission announced that the world should not “expect any change from us,” while Kim Yong-nam, the president of North Korea's Supreme People’s Assembly praised Kim Jong-il's military focused polices for “turning our fatherland into a global military power and a proud nuclear-weapons state.” There is a fancy political science term for this: audience costs.  Once one makes a big deal about something, it’s hard to reverse course without damaging one’s political support. Somehow I think that for Kim Jong-un the “audience costs” of making concessions on the nuclear program could be quite steep.

Happy New Year!

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Marcus Noland Senior Research Staff