Pyongyang hails 'iron-willed' Kim Jong-il
By Kim Myong Chol
"Kim Jong-il will do whatever he deems necessary for the fatherland and the
people by all means. He is doing what he can do to do what I desire and solve
what concerns me in a bid to please me." Kim Il-sung, paramount leader
of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) from its
founding in 1948 until his death in 1994.
"Mighty military power is essential in guaranteeing efforts to build a strong
economy and improve people's living standards when enemies are watching for an
opportunity." Kim Jong-il, current DPRK leader.
TOKYO - As 2012 approaches, the supreme leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-il, has
established himself as the most peerless
national hero in Korea's 5,000-year history - a "super" Kim Il-sung.
All indications are that Kim Jong-il, who turns 68 today (February 16), will
succeed in catapulting his ancestral Land of the Morning Calm - already a
legitimate space and nuclear power - to the long-elusive status of mighty and
prosperous country by the target year of 2012 - something it has achieved
without outside aid and in the absence of a peace treaty with the United
States. The year 2012 marks the centenary of the birth of founding father Kim
Kim Jong-il's success in leading the country explains why two national leaders,
former United States president Bill Clinton and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao,
flew into Pyongyang in 2009 for meetings with him that practically nullified
US-initiated United Nations sanctions on North Korea.
The North Korean leader has full confidence that his people will cross the
threshold of economic prosperity through his military-first policy, after for
years politely turning down offers of economic assistance and amid post-war
austerity that followed the Korean War (1950-1953) and US-crafted UN sanctions.
What distinguishes Kim Jong-il from previous national heroes is the fact that
he towers as a "super" Kim Il-sung. The Christian Science Monitor reported in
its in its January 2007 article "How Kim Jong Il controls a nation" that some
experts believe "Kim, in his own way, may be shrewder than the father who built
"Kim was in many ways dealt a weaker hand than his father, but he has played it
better," said Brian Myers, a North Korea specialist at Dongseo University in
Busan, South Korea, told the Western newspaper.
The primary reason why the DPRK leader has become a peerless national hero is
his flawless reconciliation of two conflicting key policies: one is his
much-touted military-first policy, which is intended to jealously guard the
national security interests of the DPRK, and the other bread-and-butter
policies designed to meet the rising aspirations of the DPRK's hard-working
It is hard to imagine anyone who could play the role of national leader with
greater success than Kim Jong-il, a leader who doubles as supreme commander and
architect of economic prosperity in a decade marked by nuclear blackmail and
stringent sanctions by the superpower US.
Five facts qualify Kim Jong-il as the greatest of all Korea's peerless heroes
and as an iron-willed, brilliant commander:
First, Kim Jong-il's record of successive bloodless victories over a
trigger-happy superpower US - the most powerful military power in history. He
has kept the ancestral Korean Peninsula safely out of devastating war when
everyone believed the Far Eastern land would become a second Afghanistan or
America's repeated cave-ins to Kim Jong-il's North Korea were discussed in a
lengthy op-ed in the Washington Post on April 26, 2008, headlined "Yielding to
North Korea too often". Its authors were Ambassador Winston Lord and Leslie H
Gelb, president emeritus and board senior fellow at the Council on Foreign
Top nuclear weapons expert Dr Siegfried S Hecker notes that the US has allowed
the Kim Jong-il administration to "cross with impunity every red line" the
Americans have drawn, to become a major nuclear weapon state.
This reiterates the message of the New York Times' February 20, 2005, article
by David Sanger, "America Loses Bite", which quotes a senior Bush
administration official as saying, "It's counterproductive to draw a red line
for North Korea because they will only view it as a challenge ... In North
Korea's case, red lines may be what Kim Jong-il sees in his rear-view mirror."
Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, writes in the
Winter 2010 volume of Daedalus, the quarterly journal of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences: "Not only have we not been able to negotiate effectively,
but also we have allowed Pyongyang to cross with impunity every red line we
have drawn. The US negotiating position has also been hampered by our inability
to sustain consistent policies through transitions in administrations.
Pyongyang has taken advantage of our political divisions to play a weak hand
with success. Unless we learn from the lessons of North Korea, others may be
able to do the same."
The second factor that has made Kim Jong-il a peerless national leader is his
buildup of North Korea into a fortress, the fourth most powerful nuclear power
after the US, Russia and China. With more than 300 nuclear warheads in its
arsenal, the Korean People's Army has a crack global strike force and a fleet
of thermonuclear-tipped intercontinental-ballistic missiles which can reach the
whole of the mainland USA. It is no exaggeration to say that Supreme Commander
Kim Jong-il of Fortress DPRK is a click away from a Day-after-tomorrow scenario
of torching the Metropolitan USA.
The absence of a peace treaty between North Korea and the US carries every risk
that, through design, accident, or miscalculation, an untoward incident in
Korea could promptly erupt into a DPRK-US war. The war would be fought on the
US mainland with the country's skyscraper skyline collapsing in towering
infernos. There is little doubt that the mainland US is ill-prepared for a
nuclear exchange, whereas the well-disciplined entire population of North Korea
can be evacuated underground with less than 20 minutes notice. The Americans
will realize too late what it is like to be fight a war on their soil.
Two key officials of the Obama administration acknowledge in public that North
Korea is a fully fledged nuclear state. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates
confirmed in the January/February 2009 edition of Foreign Affairs magazine that
"North Korea has built several nuclear bombs". In her February 7, 2010,
interview with CNN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called North Korea "a
Kim Jong-il's third success is his distinguished and dedicated statesmanship,
which is credited with turning North Korea around from Korean War-like
difficulties of the first half of the 1990s and presiding over its emergence as
a nuclear-armed state and increasingly wealthy nation.
The DPRK today is a far cry from what it was in the 1990s. With its economy in
much better shape, North Korea joined the elite space club in 1998 and the
nuclear club in 2006, while emerging a leading producer of computer and
cell-phone programs and TV animation films such as Pocahontas and The
A US spy satellite might soon fall to the earth, caught off guard when it tries
to take night images of well-lit North Korean cities, such as Pyongyang,
Hamheung, Wonsan, and Chungjin, since a host of new power stations are in
operation and domestically produced LED lights are in use across the country.
A Financial Times report on February 3 quoted Khaled Bichara, chief executive
of Orascom, operator of the mobile network in North Korea as saying: "They are
really looking to have, by 2012, a much stronger economy. We believe that
mobiles and eventually international communication will definitely be part of
this…we believe that this [3G-cell-phone] business will have customers in the
millions within the next four or five years." The British daily revealed that
North Korea has already a "surprising number of foreign investors".
The Sydney Morning Herald reported in September 2009 that the towering
330-meter tall Ryugyong Hotel that dominates the Pyongyang skyline "has come
back to life with a facade of shiny glass windows affixed to one side of the
concrete monolith", as part of a campaign to try to turn the state into a
"great and prosperous nation" by 2012.
Less than 20 years ago, given the demise of the socialist camp, the passing
away of the legendary founding father Kim Il-sung and a series of natural
disasters, including floods, and overt and covert American attempts to engineer
the collapse of the country, almost every expert outside North Korea predicted
its eventual implosion from economic degradation.
The September 26, 1993, Washington Post carried a prediction by the then deputy
defense secretary, William J Perry: "This is a government which has clearly
failed, and in my opinion is going to collapse some time in the next few
However, the Financial Times on March 17, 2005, quoted Gary Samore, a
non-proliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies
in London who served in the Clinton administration, as saying in exasperation.
"People have been betting on the collapse of the North Korean regime for 15
years now, and it hasn't happened."
Fourth, what underlies Kim Jong-il's popularity is balancing his military-first
policy with his populist Korea-first policy. This has been exemplified by his
all-too familiar field guide and tours - potent evidence of the accountability
and transparency of his policy conduct.
Kim Jong-il visited more than 200 places throughout North Korea in 2009,
according to a February 12, 2010 Korean Central News Agency report.
The above-quoted Christian Science Monitor article wrote:
One side of
Kim only now emerging is how closely he stays in touch with the people. The
Dear Leader is on the road, working the crowds, a great deal. Studies of Korean
media show Kim averages about 150 local visits a year. He may not make live
televised speeches, but he's at a school, a factory, a farm, a military base -
every three days. (He shows up at a military unit once a week.) This suggests a
"When someone you worship comes to your factory, it's a personal connection. We
tend to overlook this simple fact," says [Alexander Mansourov of the Asia
Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu], who has tracked Kim's
appearances. "Kim knows the local leaders, the opinion makers, the local
cadres. He's not in a fishbowl. He may be a dictator, but he's also a
This popular identification with Kim Jong-il's
leadership, which is misrepresented in the West as personality cult, goes a
long way to explaining why the North Korean leader was able to keep his
population united, resilient and mentally sane, while living "under the shadow
of nuclear threat for longer than any other nation".
Dr Gavin McCormack, a professor at the Australian National University, noted in
a op-ed in the January 8, 2003, issue of the Age: "After facing for half a
century the threat of extermination, it would be surprising if North Korea did
not now show signs of neurosis and instability."
Kim Jong-il's fifth and last success comes in the distinguished leadership
qualities he has shown in weaning the former allies Russia and China from the
American fold to court the friendship of a nuclear-powered North Korea again.
A Rockefeller-funded 1997 DPRK report was prepared by Russian analysts as a
joint project between the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey
Institute of International Studies, and the Russian Center for Contemporary
International Problems, located at the Diplomatic Academy, Moscow. The report
Thus, American strategy failed completely North Korea responded
with strong countermeasures, including departure from the Non-Proliferation
Treaty. Faced with Pyongyang's toughness, the Americans got scared and made
This line of Russian "analysis" concludes with suggestions that Moscow should
learn from the North Korean experience and respond to the expansion of NATO and
other unfriendly policies of the United States with strong countermeasures. The
Kremlin is advised to abandon all arms control agreements, conclude military
alliances with friendly Arab regimes, and preserve a strategic partnership with
Reuters reported on November 6, 2009:
month, Premier Wen Jiabao courted [North Korea's] secretive top leader, Kim
Jong-il, with a visit and President Hu Jintao hosted one of Kim's confidantes
and invited Kim to visit.
"'China remains worried about North Korea's atomic weapons and wants to revive
nuclear disarmament talks," John Park, an expert on ties between the two
countries at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC, told the
news agency. "But recently China has focused more on healing bruised ties with
the North, driven by a belief that Pyongyang appears set on keeping its small
nuclear arsenal for a long time, and that US policy remains uncertain.
"I think the Chinese did an assessment and realized that the US approach is
ineffective, so they had to recalibrate policy toward North Korea," Park said.
Kim Myong Chol is author of a number of books and papers in Korean,
Japanese and English on North Korea, including Kim Jong-il's Strategy
for Reunification. He has a PhD from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's
Academy of Social Sciences and is often called an "unofficial" spokesman of Kim
Jong-il and North Korea.