Friday, April 27, 2018

Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un: Trump's "Honorable" Little Rocket Man

by Nomad

Recent surprising comments from President Trump calls into question his ability to judge the character of his adversaries.

Open and Honorable

Despite over a year of saber-rattling and the trashing any kind of negotiation with North Korean leader, President Trump recently did an inexplicable about-face. 

Just the other day, Trump declared that the dictator Kim Jong-un "has really been very open and I think very honorable based on what we are seeing." Trump also said that he was looking forward to meeting Kim "very soon."

Aside from the jarring repudiation of all the president has said in the past,  it's difficult to imagine how a person like Trump would even define the word, "honorable."

The report was drafted in 2017 by three prestigious jurists declared that Kim Jong-un and other officials should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. Based on testimony from defectors and experts, there are between 80,000 and 130,000 inmates being held in concentration camps. The report also points to evidence of "systematic murder, including infanticide, and torture, persecution of Christians, rape, forced abortions, starvation and overwork leading to 'countless deaths'”.

The atrocities occurring in these camps are, as one jurist and Auschwitz survivor claimed,  "are as terrible, or even worse  than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and in my long professional career in the human rights field.”
North Korea’s “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un has presided over 10 of the 11 crimes against humanity enumerated in the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Among them: murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, and sexual violence.
The number of survivors who have escaped is obviously small. If their stories are true, then the North Korean regime is every bit as brutal and blood-thirsty as the one that the Nazis created. As Time reported:
One account described a prisoner’s newborn being fed to guard dogs. Each year at one of the camps, according to defector testimonies, authorities deliberately overwork and starve to death between 1,500 and 2,000 mostly child prisoners.
 As with any dictatorship, the ultimate responsibility for such crimes falls squarely on the shoulders of the top dog. He is, after all, the Supreme Leader.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un

The Failed State

In some ways, life outside the gulags is only marginally better. A year ago, the Washington Post interviewed more than 25 North Koreans that had escaped from Kim Jong Un’s North Korea. 

They revealed a nation that has all but broken down, with a totalitarian regime presiding over a  centralized economy on the verge of collapse. North Koreans are today attempting to survive on their own in any way they can. North Korea is supposed to be a bastion of socialism, a country where the state provides everything, including housing, healthcare, education and jobs. In reality, the state economy barely operates anymore.
People work in factories and fields, but there is little for them to do, and they are paid almost nothing. A vibrant private economy has sprung up out of necessity, one where people find ways to make money on their own, whether through selling homemade tofu or dealing drugs, through smuggling small DVD players with screens called “notels” over the border or extracting bribes.
In North Korea, entrepreneurism is thriving but only because of the failures of the  Jong-un regime to provide for its own people. For black marketeers and those operating businesses at home, it is a matter of survival.
From the biggest cities to the smallest villages, there is now some kind of market building where people can sell their wares and keep their profits. Some are state-run, some are state-sanctioned, some are ad hoc. The markets have been retroactively legalized by the regime.
famine North Korea
The economy is simply not sustainable, no matter how much the Supreme Leader boasts about providing, like housing and schooling. In addition, corruption at local levels is undermining the regime's rigid control over the people.

Attempts to maintain control have led to bizarre laws in North Korean. For example,  in 2013, Kim Jong-un decreed that there would be only 28 government approved hairstyles that men and women can get. (Ironically, the leader’s own unique slicked-back style isn’t on the list.) 

Shocking for a nominally- Socialist nation, North Korean students are required to pay for their own desks and chairs. Other laws include requiring permission from the government to reside in the nation's capital. 
Owning a Bible is a criminal offense. And according to reports, if you should be unfortunate enough to be convicted of crimes against the state, your entire bloodline for three generations – grandparents, parents, and children – are punished. 

Meanwhile, according to a UN report, two in five civilians are undernourished and more than 70% of the population relies on food aid. One in five North Koreans do not have access to clean water or adequate sanitation. As a result, diarrhea and pneumonia are the two main causes of death for children under five.

Man-Made and Natural Disasters

On top of everything else, North Korean's failed regime is unable to deal with both natural disasters and the destruction of its environment.  Both droughts and floods have largely devastated the nation's agricultural areas, leading to widespread food shortages. 

[L]arge areas of North Korean land are bare after decades of cutting down trees in wooded areas for firewood and clearing room for farmland, particularly in more impoverished areas where flooding can be the most destructive.
Most of the country’s population is critically dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. The current drought/flood disaster will require international action on a large scale to ensure adequate food consumption for the most vulnerable people.
In spite of the dire conditions, autocrat Kim-un has been spending money his nation doesn't have on a nuclear program it doesn't need. According to Reuters in 2016,  South Korean government experts estimate that  North Korea's nuclear spending at $1.1 billion to $3.2 billion overall. They add that the numbers are impossible to verify because of the secrecy of the program.  

And this mad rush for nuclear weapons also has led to new kind of disaster. Just this week, scientists confirmed that  North Korea’s mountain nuclear test site has collapsed. This puts China and other nearby nations at unprecedented risk of radioactive exposure.

To complete this list of failures, Kim Jong-un's hostile foreign policy has reduced access to international aid. The need for humanitarian assistance is assuredly going to increase the longer the Kim-un remains in power. And he has expressed pretty clearly that he doesn't plan to go anywhere. 

The Updated Narrative: Mutual Respect

This then is the man that Trump has called honorable. According to Webster's, the word "honorable" is defined as "deserving of respect or high regard." For any American president, for any person with a sense of right and wrong, to call the Supreme leader of North Korea honorable is, in itself, a disgrace.

Yet, none of Trump's praise and flattery of a monster really matters. What he says today will be meaningless tomorrow. The contradictions will have already trickled down to the level of North Korean war-monger Mike Pompeo. That's the man who will upcoming Secretary of State. In a 2017 interview. Pompeo said
“I am hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this system,” “The North Korean people, I’m sure are lovely people and would love to see him [Kim Jong Un] go.
Only last month, the then-CIA Director Pompeo said that negotiations with North Korea would not include any concessions and that the U.S. would continue to take steps to disrupt the North Korean economy and pressure the regime.

This month, Pompeo- still not confirmed- made a secret visit to North Korea earlier this month and met with leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump's verdict?
"A good relationship was formed...I really believe there's a lot of good will. They do respect us. We are respectful of them."
On the good side, at least, these two leaders- both equally incompetent and unstable- are not currently threatening to unleash nuclear annihilation. 

The "honorable" Kim Jong-un, a man who only months ago vowed to fire atomic missiles at his enemies, this week took the unprecedented step of holding one-on-one discussions with the South Korean leader, Moon Jae-in.
A cynical display from a failed leader backed into a corner or a reason for cautious optimism? Time will reveal all.