Kim Jong Un: What Leader?

A while back this was pretty much the extent of what I knew about the Kim dynasty dictatorship… (oh how influential pop culture can be)

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This week I decided to research the Kim’s and try to work out how the family business is faring after three generations of dictatorship. It is crazy how long the Kim’s have been in power! Although it seems with each generation this power is slipping. We have gone from Kim Il Sung who established the regime in 1948 (Eternal Leader), to Kim Jong Il (Great Leader) who succeeded his father in 1994 and ruled with an iron fist, to current ruler Kim Jong Un (Adjective TBA Leader). Kim has been in charge since late 2011 following his father’s death.

A combination photograph shows founder of North Korea Kim Il-sung, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-il's youngest son Kim Jong-un

My final research topic and digital artefact centres on the notion of change in North Korea, and how digital technology plays a part in this. Of course this change links directly with North Korea’s new leadership and one event, supporting this link, was a recent admittance of failure (something out of the ordinary the DPRK). For the first time among three unsuccessful missile launches they actually told the country the truth, they had failed. This act of ‘taking responsibility for your actions’ (something you learn when you’re 5) might just indicate that the government has finally acknowledged they can no longer keep sizeable secrets from their people. The regime now understands that a significant percentage of NK citizens are illegally consuming foreign media (next weeks topic). Because of this influx of information into and out of the country the populace is becoming more informed and less susceptible to the brainwashing tactics witnessed in the last few decades.

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I have been emitting a lot of positive vibes in regards to a better future for North Korea, but I think I need to be a tad more realistic. To be honest, things are probably going to get worse before they get better. Kim Jong Un has recently violated international law, as he refused to cooperate with the US to receive food aid. North Korea is no stranger to chronic food shortages and the government has actually advised people to consume grass and bark as a part of a balanced diet. The food situation in North Korea is bad. It really hits a note with me, maybe because I am not used to seeing these particular images of poverty, or maybe because it looks like footage from famines that occurred last century, either way it seems Kim’s rash decisions for missiles over food is not sitting well with global aid (when treated like an inferior the regime likes to act out by firing missiles, to compensate for their lack of everything bar an army and nuclear weapons… seriously, all the Kim’s have done it). After providing the DPRK with more than 12.5 million metric tons of food, worth up to $4 billion over the past two decades, the international community seems to have developed a case of donor fatigue. I guess you can’t really blame them.

P.s Kim Jong Un is building a Ski Resort… I guess if it makes him happy?

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3 comments

  1. It is interesting that North Korea has had to face the realities of a networked world. Other nations have had to face this reality in the form of Wikileaks, and had to own up to or at least address their shady dealings. North Korea, however, has managed to stay largely off the grid, so it is surprising that they are feeling they have to own up to their failures due to their citizens ability to join the rest of the network. The New York Times called it the ‘Internet Black Hole’, but it goes to show that even the few that have access can cause a great impact (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/23/technology/23link.html?_r=0).

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  2. Interesting post, the situation in North Korea seems pretty bad especially when they spend a lot of money of weapons/military and can’t even feed their own people. It would be good to see if you can find out more about dissident groups online or offline and how successful or unsuccessful they have been in trying to get more information out about what exactly is going on in North Korea. Maybe you could investigate more into what the role of the US is in all of this and if they are having an influence on dissident groups. For example, NED (national endowment for democracy which has links to the US state department might be funding dissidents as a way of undermining the government from the inside. Maybe this could be included in your digital artefact?

    hope this helps?

    – Caitlin

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  3. Man Kim Jong Un is crazy. It really shows that the North Korean government is maturing (albeit rather slowly) when they own up to their failures, this is particularly relevant as it seems to me that they would be the absolute last group of people who would publicly acknowledge any mishaps with citizens accessing information from foreign countries.

    I look forward to your next post on the illegal consumption of foreign media.

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