BAYHAM: The Radioactive Rhetoric Of Kim Jong Un

The Christian Science Monitor posted a quiz on their website asking readers how well they knew North Korea’s leaders. One of the questions asked about which of the following legends about Kim Il Sung did the government push: that he could turn pine cones into bullets, that he could cut down a tree with a single swing of his sword or that he walked on water.

The answer was all of the above.

Apparently it is always April Fool’s Day in North Korea.

One only needs to click on North Korea’s geocities-quality English news site,, to read the most hyperbolic propaganda on the planet. It’s Rocky and Bullwinkle quality stuff that castigates the United States as “imperialists” and South Korea as “puppets” and “war mongers” while praising North Korea’s leader as “the dear respected Marshal.”

The country’s guiding principle, Juche – roughly translated as self-reliance, is misleading as the North Korea is heavily dependent on its Chinese neighbor, which supplies the impoverished country with much of its food and energy.

Even their very name, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a farce with only the last word being accurate.

Yet beyond the comical boasting and absurd bluster is one of the most militarized countries in the world with a million man army, a nuclear weapons arsenal and 10,000 artillery pieces that could lob shells into South Korea’s capital of Seoul.

Despite its formidable man-power, North Korean forces would not be able to drive far beyond the fortified frontier before an American-South Korean counterstrike blunted the advance.

But that’s not to say Pyongyang couldn’t inflict major damage on the south even in a brief operation. An attack would invite massive retaliation that would spell the end of the House of Kim’s rule over the north.

Unlike his father Kim Jong Il, who was born in a Soviet military base during World War II, Kim Jong Un was born into a comfortable life, reportedly spending a good bit of his early years in Switzerland.

Can someone who inherited supreme authority at a young age be trusted to soberly wield power?

Thus far, the answer is a resounding no.

A few days ago a photograph was released showing a map of the United States with certain cities marked for attack by North Korea, including Austin, Texas. How can a country that can barely feed itself strike a city an ocean and time zones away? Has the regime been watching a bootleg copy of the Red Dawn remake while eating mushrooms?

Pyongyang has decided to raise tensions even higher by declaring that its military had “ratified” a nuclear attack against the US, language that Israelis might be conditioned to hearing whenever Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad opens his mouth but somewhat unnerving to Americans not accustomed to someone boldly proclaiming such a threat.

While folks in Austin can sleep safe at night with the confidence that North Korea’s ballistic weapons system isn’t developed enough to reach the Texas capital, it will be interesting to see how Kim Jong Un escapes the corner he has painted himself into with the latest round of saber-rattling.

Are Kim Jong Un and his advisors hoping that the West will make some kind of gesture or tribute to cool things or does Un react like a disrespected young man in a bar and take a swing at the bigger patron for the sake of pride?

Bear in mind that Kim Jong Un has the distinction of being the most powerful 30-year old in a world.

In a place where reality is bent to suit the needs of the regime, the possibility of some kind of North Korean military action, as foolish as it would seem, cannot be discounted.

Un has Moscow and Beijing nervous, the latter reportedly moving military hardware towards the Yalu River.

Are the tantrums a reaction to the recent war games conducted by US and South Korean military forces, a rebuke to South Korea for electing pro-American conservative Park Geun-hye as president or a preemptive gambit to dissuade the west from hitting North Korea with new economic sanctions?

The young autocrat’s true intentions might become clearer on April 15th, the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung and a national holiday, referred to officially as the “Day of the Sun.”

Kim Jong Un isn’t the first thirty-something who thought he could take on the world. He’s just the first one to have a nuclear weapons program.

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