Archive for Kim Jong Il
Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the North Korean embassy in Beijing on Tuesday to “express condolences” for the death of Kim Jong-il, in a sign of Beijing’s determination to protect its ties with Pyongyang as it enters an uncertain transition. Hu’s visit, reported by the official Xinhua news agency, followed a message from China’s central leadership on Monday that gave Beijing’s support for isolated North Korea and expressed confidence in Kim Jong-un — Kim Jong-il’s young and little-known successor. The brief Xinhua report did not say what Hu said during his embassy visit. But his gesture — unusual for China’s highest ranked leader — was enough to highlight Beijing’s effort to shore up support for Pyongyang under the younger Kim. “We feel incomparably anguished, and offer our deepest condolences to the entire North Korean people,” China’s top leaders said in a collective statement read out on state television’s main evening news on Monday. “We are sure that the North Korean people will abide by Comrade Kim Jong-il’s will and unify around the Korean Workers’ Party, and under the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un turn their anguish into strength,” it added. Over the 18 months before his death, Kim visited China four times, although in the past he rarely travelled abroad.
Many analysts conclude that Kim Jong Il has played a poor hand of cards skillfully. “I tend to disregard rumors that he’s irrational, a man that nobody can do business with,” said Alexander Mansourov, a longtime Korea scholar and a former Russian diplomat who was posted in Pyongyang in the late 1980s. “I believe that he is smart. He’s pragmatic. And I think he can be ruthless. He’s a man who will not loosen his grip in any way on the people around him.” Analysts say it is easy for outsiders to demonize Kim Jong Il, a dictator who spent an estimated 25% or more of his country’s gross national product on the military while many in his country went hungry. But in North Korea, closed off from outside influences, fearful of threats from its neighbors, and subjected to decades of political socialization on top of a long tradition of a strict hierarchical system, Kim Jong Il is viewed positively by most people, said Han Park of the Center for Study of Global Issues. “The level of reverence for Kim Jong Il in North Korea is quite underestimated by the outside,” Park said. “He is regarded by many as not only a superior leader but a decent person, a man of high morality. Whether that’s accurate is not important if you want to deal with North Korea. You have to understand their belief system. Perception is reality.” But to the outside world, Kim Jong Il will be remembered as one of the worst despots in history, according to Andre Lankov, an author on Korea’s history. “He will be remembered as a person who was responsible for awful things: for the existence of one of the worst dictatorships in not only Korean history but the world history at least in the 20th and 21st centuries,” Lankov said. “Yet he did not create this dictatorship — it was his father’s but he took responsibility, and he made sure it continued for many more years.”