Kim Jong Eun's creepy debutant ball
For a dictator/national savior-in-waiting, this is more like it:
Kim Jong Eun, believed to be 27, stood near his ailing father on a long rostrum overlooking tens of thousands of civilian performers and goose-stepping troops in a special celebration broadcast on state television. Until last month, when he was promoted to four-star general at a special meeting of the ruling Workers' Party, Kim Jong Eun had never appeared by name or face in the North Korean press....
The ceremony was held in Kim Il Sung Square, named after Kim Jong Il's father and founder of the nation. The location and trappings emphasized North Korea's intention to perpetuate the dynasty that has ruled the northern half of the peninsula since the end of World War II.
"He's the one, exactly the same as Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il," gushed Kim Soh Ye, a young woman in a festive Korean gown who was escorting foreign journalists for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The public unveiling of North Korea's next leader stands in stark contrast to the pixelated, unflattering first look the world received of Kim Jong Il's heir, an image so unbecoming of a dictator that it caused some to doubt the younger Kim's succession. This time around, journalists were given unusually generous access in Pyongyang to cover the massive military parades and public spectacles ostensibly to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party's founding.
Which brings up my point: Though the West knows so little about North Korea thanks to the regime's efforts to insulate its population from outsiders, with increased access we only grow more struck (I do, at least) by how successful the regime's cradle-to-grave brainwashing efforts have been. For example, this photo of a dancer weeping as she performs -- and other images of crowds applauding and convulsing for their stone-faced leaders -- evokes memories of grief-stricken North Koreans wailing uncontrollably during "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung's funeral in 1994. I confess that as a supposedly free-thinking Westerner, I've cracked a few laughs at the absurdities of Pyongyang's propaganda, but the tragedy is that millions of Koreans sentenced to living their sole existence in the north are bombarded by claims of their leaders' god-like powers from the moment they're born.
In a few months, years or however long it takes for the ailing elder Kim to expire, expressions of uncontrollable grief will no doubt pour out from North Koreans over the "Dear Leader's" death, a spectacle foreign journalists will probably be given special access to cover. And we'll again marvel at how enthusiastically most North Koreans seem to embrace their imprisonment.
-- Paul Thornton
Photo: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, right, and his son Kim Jong Eun, left, salute from the balcony as they attend a massive military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the communist nation's ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang on Oct. 10. Credit: Associated Press.