Thursday, November 18, 2004

Strange Doings in the Hermit Kingdom

It's hard to tell what to make of news that Kim Jong Il has ordered the removal of many of his official portraits and seems to be toning down the propaganda which gives him "divine" status. But in a repressive dictatorship, change is usually bad for the rulers--and this may be the first beginnings of a instability within the North Korean regime.

"North Korea May Be Reducing Reverence for Leader," Anthony Faiola and Sachiko Sakamaki, Washington Post, November 18

"Analysts said it is unlikely that the current shift signals an upheaval in the North Korean power structure, as such changes would almost certainly have been made on Kim's own orders. Experts caution that it is also too early to tell how far the campaign may actually go. But for a man who North Koreans are taught was born on a mountaintop, with his entry to the world heralded by a double rainbow, even the embryonic stage of an image change is significant. Analysts say Kim may be attempting to portray himself as a more serious political leader to the outside world, where his deified status at home has earned him a reputation as one of the globe's more bizarre rulers. But he may also be succumbing to pressure on several fronts to overhaul his secretive country's peculiar form of communist leadership. North
Korean refugees who have escaped their homeland in recent years say that an increasing number of their countrymen are no longer buying into the Kim cult, and the moves now may represent a pragmatic recognition by Kim of his people's growing skepticism."