In spite of the risk of instability in North Korea, and the potential for such instability to cause grave problems for regional stability, the death of Kim Jong-Il is to be welcomed. In death, Kim Jong-Il should be treated with the scorn and contempt he deserved in life.
Contrary to his self-styled status as a “great leader” and a “dear leader” this was not a great man; he was not a world leader of any positive stature, nor indeed was he a respected leader in any constructive sense whatsoever.
He was, in short, a menace.
The news some hours ago that Kim is dead is welcome and not a little overdue; indeed, the world has “lost” one of its most dangerous, murderous and nihilistic despots.
The official cause of death reported initially in the official North Korean media — that Kim had died “of fatigue” on a train trip — is perfectly consistent with the other mountains of horse excrement propagated (defecated?) over many years about Kim Jong-Il by his regime’s propaganda machine.
Pearls such as Kim’s ability to control the weather by the power of his mind, or such poppycock as his ability to walk at the age of three weeks, right through to the insultingly misguided belief instilled into his poor countryfolk that North Korea was a world superpower who could engage and defeat the USA in a nuclear war — to name just a few — are indicative of both the idiotic nature of his repression, and of the lame-brained lemmings the North Korean “education” system is specifically designed to churn out.
To subsequently learn that Kim had, in fact, died from a massive heart attack is surprising only insofar as that generally, in order to have a heart attack, one first must have a heart.
Don’t misunderstand: this is a regime, and a tyrant, who has amassed vast personal wealth and accrued colossal military capability — including the development and expansion of nuclear weapons capabilities — whilst his people starved; forced to eat bark and leaf litter, the average North Korean now grows to just 1.4 metres (4ft, 6in).
This is a regime, and a tyrant, who has interned hundreds of thousands of his people in military gulags for dissent; eliminated countless thousands more on political grounds; yet has systematically and consistently failed to provide basics such as clean water and reliable energy to those of his people who hung adoringly, and misguidedly, on his every word.
This is a regime, and a tyrant, who has opted not to be a responsible world citizen, but to be a proliferator of nuclear, biological and chemical technologies — and the missile capabilities with which to deliver them — to equally murderous regimes in other corners of the world.
This is a regime, and a tyrant, who has spent many years causing real military angst for neighbours such as Japan and South Korea, and — since its acquisition of nuclear bombs — has repeatedly and belligerently threatened all-out nuclear Armageddon on the Korean Peninsula, across South-East Asia, and indeed across the world.
When dealing with madmen and lunatics, it matters little that the USA would wipe North Korea off the face of the world in a retaliatory strike lasting all of five minutes; the problem with lunatics — especially nuclear-armed ones — is that they can be dangerously unpredictable; even suicidal.
No, I think it’s fair to say, advisedly, that Kim Jong-Il was a heartless bastard.
Whilst the death of Kim Jong-Il is a welcome development, it fails to solve critical questions of world security and regional security; these will, in part, form the “legacy” of his reign.
Japan and South Korea in particular will rightly be pleased Kim is dead, but equally validly concerned at what might come next.
China — the North’s only (and long-suffering) ally — will most likely, quietly, also be glad to see the back of Kim; in spite of its own military mischief and games of brinkmanship with its neighbours and the US, its recalcitrant neighbour under Kim Jong-Il had become a monster increasingly impossible to control.
Questions abound about the “succession” that will now occur in North Korea.
His designated heir — youngest son Kim Jong-Un — is aged in just his late 20s and, despite reportedly being educated in Switzerland under a pseudonym, is said to be even more paranoid and violent than his father was.
There is the possibility that one of Kim’s other sons may challenge Jong-Un for the North Korean leadership; there is also the possibility that the North Korean military will enact a coup and assume martial control of the country.
Were that to occur, the outcome — quite literally — could be anything.
Yet what is likely to endure in the North Korean psyche is the paranoia; the utter conviction that the rest of the world — and especially the United States — wishes to wantonly destroy their country; the fantasy that the South has a proactive agenda to realise the same outcome, aided and abetted by the US, when in fact South Korea overwhelmingly desires peaceful reunification with the North; and the fairytale that North Korea can wipe out its enemies, real or perceived, simply because it has a small handful of relatively weak nuclear weapons.
Added to this, as outlined earlier, is the famine, the starvation, the appalling poverty and illiteracy of the population, lack of hygiene, or anything more than mediaeval levels of medicine, industrial production, or indeed any basic necessity of life judged against modern first-world standards — an indictment on a regime proclaiming itself as “the greatest revolutionary civilisation in the history of the world.”
And all this capped off with the sheer barbarism and cruelty of a tyrannical Stalinist regime that arbitrarily executes and tortures hundreds of thousands of its own citizens with little or no valid pretext, judged against any civilised standards.
This is Kim Jong-Il’s legacy to his country, and to the world.
North Korea no more needs Kim Jong-Il than the rest of the world will miss the need to indulge, cajole, and manage him.
It is true that there are great risks now in terms of the direction North Korea will take and what the consequences will be for that country, for the Asia-Pacific region, and for the world generally.
That said, those risks are worth exploring when weighed against the fact Kim Jong-Il, and everything his chapter of the leadership of the murderous North Korean junta represents, is now gone.