Thursday, February 17, 2005

It's Good to Be the "Dear Leader"

With apologies to Mel Brooks, the birthday celebrations for North Korean despot (you might as well call him a king) Kim Jong-il, highlight the privileges of ruling a communist society.

Children's dance displays, synchronised swimming, fireworks and Kim's personal touch - flower shows featuring the Kimjongilia, a form of magnolia specially bred to bloom early in his honour - marked the 63 years of North Korea's "Dear Leader".

An army dance ensemble performed a concert featuring numbers such as General on a Galloping White Horse and a female solo, I Do Not Know a Warmer Bosom.

Pyongyang's central square "turned into rising waves of dances when the participants presented more enthusiastic dances, waving the flags of the supreme commander", said the official Korean Central News Agency.

"The Korean people unanimously revere leader Kim Jong-il as a brilliant commander," it added.

Unfortunately, the North Korean people are also starving, even as Kim Jong-il parties the night away.

Since losing its main backer, the Soviet Union, at the beginning of the 1990s, North Korea has suffered a famine in which at least a million people are thought to have died, industrial collapse, power shortages and now rampant inflation as tentative economic reforms are tried out.

The World Food Programme said last month that food rations had been cut in half, on top of chronic shortages that have already led to serious stunting of the country's children.

Starving children, however, don't rank high on Kim Jong-il's list of priorities Drug smuggling, kidnapping, arming rogue states and keeping his military primed and ready to crush dissent constitute the "Dear Leader's" only concerns.

Nevertheless, Kim Jong-il has his sympathizers - some, apparently, at the UK's Telegraph, who after casually mentioning the million dead from famine, felt compelled to humanize the monster with this little confessional gem.

Curiously, occasional re-ports from inside his secluded family-run leadership clique suggest that Kim is well aware of - and slightly embarrassed by - the absurdity of his personality cult, but feels unable to do anything about it.

You see? Dictators have their problems too. It's not all poor little Kim's fault - he's a victim of his own popularity! This blatant display of "progressive" empathy with Pyongyang's current Stalin impersonator would be amusing, if he weren't a mass murderer. Of course, that sort of thing has never much troubled "progressives."

But official pronouncements sometimes now take on a hint of fashionable anti-globalisation and anti-Americanism, and stress the internationalisation of Kim's support. This year, birthday festivals were apparently also held in Russia, Guinea, Senegal, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore and Nigeria.
"The day is an auspicious holiday for progressive people all over the world," said the KCNA.


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