Global Politics: Glorious Leader Number Three or the Weakest Link?
Jacob Steckel, Staff Writer
April 19, 2012
Filed under News & Features
Since the death of his father, Kim Jong-un, the heir to the Kim throne has had frequent exposure to the international spotlight. The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has been considered a loose cannon in global affairs since the territory refused to participate in UN supervised elections in 1948.
In the years after the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994, the nation’s administration fell to his son, Kim Jong-il, a widely held eccentric. Both figures transformed themselves into “eternal” and “glorious” leaders of their people.
Kim Il-sung, often seen as the patriarch of the Korean Worker’s Party, was installed by the Soviets for his communist ideology.
It was under his leadership, in addition to support from Stalin and Mao Zedong, that the Korean War was waged. From the onset, tensions had run high at the border between the North and South, along the 38th parallel, also known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
As the 20th century moved onward, North Korea found itself with ever fewer allies and became increasingly economically and socially cut off from most of the world. Gradually, while he remained president, Il-sung began handing over government and military positions to his son, Kim Jong-il. In 1994, the Jong-il took the reigns over the entire country.
Despite some seemingly promising gestures, Jong-il’s government consistently defied and violated agreements with Western nations. The most alarming of these was, and continues to be, the development of nuclear based weaponry.
In addition to a history of hostile intentions and the fourth largest standing army in the world, the Democratic People’s Republic has been seen as a powder keg waiting to go off.
Now, several months after Jong-il’s reported death in December of 2011, Jong-un is in a tricky situation. With little real knowledge disclosed about Jong-un, the world was anxious to see what the new leader of one of the last hostile communist governments might do to prove himself.
A sigh of relief was given when, in the beginning of March, Jong-un’s government agreed to end its nuclear program in exchange for food aid to feed the nation’s starving populations. This was an unprecedented turn of events, resulting in an agreement between the DPRK and the United States.
Recent news, however, has dashed the hopes that this agreement had put in place. On Friday, April 13, against heavy protest from not only the UN and United States, but Russia and China as well, Jong-un’s government proceeded to launch a rocket-propelled satellite in commemoration of Kim Il-sung, presenting it “as a gift” to the so-called Glorious Leader. However, the launch was unsuccessful, and the pieces of the projectile fell into the Yellow Sea.
While it was warned heavily that the launch would result in serious consequences, the North Korean government expressed its intent to carry on with the exercise, which cost nearly one-billion dollars to fund.
The White House released a statement soon after the confirmed failure of the launch expressing its disappointment, saying, “North Korea’s provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments… they are only further isolating themselves by engaging in provocative acts and wasting money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry.”
In retaliation, the U.S. has called off an agreement to give aid to the North Koreans. Further, it has been stated that Jong-un may never fully recover from humiliation that followed the failure of this spectacle.
Several hours after the crash, the leader promoted 70 military figures to the rank of general, a move which many see as a reshuffling of the armed forces and political elite in order to alleviate some of the pressures of the failed spectacle.
The North Korean Central News Agency continues to urge the people that their prospects are “immensely rosy and bright as they have Kim Jong-un,” but the ultimate fate of the Kim dynasty remains to be seen.
Only time will tell if the North’s legacy of communism will survive another generation.