Tuesday, September 7, 2010

KCNA on Kim Jong-il's visit to Northeast China

[Note: Bear with me here; this post makes a wild prediction that, if it comes true, should give me lifetime status in the constellation of great North Korea watchers.]

If you'd like to peruse what the Pyongyang regime's official mouthpiece had to say about the Dear Leader's trip to Big Brother, below are some links.

For starters, there is the lengthy article describing Marshal Kim's trip and visit with Chinese leader Hu Jintao. In addition to Hu saying that Kim Jong-il's father, Kim Ilsung, "not only achieved the independence of Korea through a protracted struggle but made a great contribution to the victory of the Chinese revolution."

Hu's on third?

Okay, then. What I found more interesting in the article was Kim Jong-il's description of the Manchurian region, and I wonder if it contains a hint of what KJI plans for his son to do with North Korea:
The northeastern region of China is an unforgettable area where President Kim Il Sung waged an arduous revolutionary struggle for over 20 years joining hands with the revolutionaries and people of China, drinking water in the region and breathing air there, Kim Jong Il said, adding that the President always remembered the mountains and fields of the northeastern region of China dear to him and the Chinese comrades who fought alongside him.

Kim Jong Il said that he was deeply impressed to see the northeastern region of China developing and undergoing changes with each passing day during his visit, adding that this signal turn is a clear proof of the validity and vitality of the strategy set forth by the party and government of China to develop its northeastern region.
Let's not forget that Kim Jong-il tried at one time to establish a SAR of its own in Shinŭiju (that post contains a link to a fascinating Time magazine article on the proposed SAR), which may have failed because China was angered at North Korea's unilateralism in its own country. Could that be the reason behind the Dear Leader's visit: He's not just trying to get Beijing's approval for a dynastic transfer, but permission for Kim Jong-un (under the auspices of his father while he's still alive and after that, his regent uncle, Jang Songthaek) to pursue Chinese-style economic reforms?

Think about it: The Deng Xiaoping model of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" would be the best model for North Korea's leadership to (a) preserve their rule by forestalling collapse using a proven system that allows them to maintain a high degree of control, (b) keep meddling Chinese hands away from the DPRK as much as possible, (c) make nice with the neighbors, and (d) potentially make them all rich, which is glorious.

Though he's no doubt surrounded by yes men, KJI has got to see the writing on the wall, and it looks like it might spell Ceaucescu. Could it be that in his old age — in frail health and standing at death's door — he has softened a bit and wants to put the country (or at least his son) on a different trajectory? Instead of setting his son up to be North Korea's Gorbachev, could he be setting him up to be North Korea's Deng?

Okay, that's just a rambling thought, but what if I'm on to something there? We see Western reports saying that Kim Jong-un is just as ruthless as his father, but how do we know this twentysomething kid is a North Korean equivalent of Uday Hussein? Maybe this Swiss-educated kid is being sent down a different path (for real, not for show).

The KCNA also has a link to Kim Jong-il's speech at the banquet with Hu, which also contains praise for northeastern China's achievements. Hu's speech at the same banquet is fairly boilerplate communist brotherhood stuff.  Kim Jong-il's thank you message to Hu repeats the same themes.

A somewhat lively discussion of my inkling-slash-theory has developed in the comments section at this ROK Drop post, where I'd provided a link to this post (I'm a link whore).


  1. I agree with you. There is more to this than meets the eye.
    The hermit kingdom will be come out of its cave very soon. S/K knows it and is preparing for it.

    The N/K leadership will do what ever it takes to stay in power. But first they will need to save face.
    Going with the Chinese model is a win win situation for them.
    They would be bowing to China, awakening their population, entering the world community, while still holding power.
    The U.S. and their idiotic false flags, and sanctions should stay out of it.

  2. Not sure about
    "(b) keep meddling Chinese hands away from the DPRK as much as possible."
    It might instead make absorption of NK into China rather easier - I'm presuming China's long-term intention is to consolidate its borders to include the Korean peninsula.

  3. I don't disagree with you, Robert, hence the qualifier as much as possible.

    Chinese-style economic reforms would, if they're successful, increase prosperity in the North and therefore make Pyongyang less reliant on handouts from Beijing, which would diminish their means of control. It could also mean greater economic ties with North Korea's non-China neighbors, which would also loosen the grip on those meddling hands.


  4. Kim, Jong-un as NK's Deng? Hmmm, I'd feel a lot more comfortable with that idea if he wasn't a twenty-something in a state run by a gerontocracy. If Fat Boy sticks around long enough to get these alleged reforms off the ground and the elite starts to see some benefits and few threats, then I'll start to go along. Until then I can't help but see this as a dodge to buy time until its safe for the North to return to its old ways of extortion from friend and foe alike.

  5. My theory is that the Choenan was Jong-Un's litmus test to get the support of the military. But then, I'm also naive enough to believe that China's interest in Korea is simply as a friendly border state. I.e., a reunified Korea is OK,(and perhaps preferable) as long as the U.S. is out of the Peninsula. Which will be the result of reunification anyway. This has the added advantage of throwing the costs of North Korea's emergence from the dark ages on to the ROK.

  6. lirelou, what evidence do you have of this litmus test? Other than the anti-Nork narrative that pops up in the South Korean, Japanese, or Western press, what do we know about this twentysomething kid to believe that's what he chose to do or was sent to do, and then capable of doing?

    The only thing I can think of is that Kim Jong-il, back in 1987, was supposedly tasked with blowing up KAL 858 to prove his worth, and this could be some sort of twisted father-son bonding thing.

    And I don't think reunification will result in the US leaving the peninsula. A reduction, perhaps, and maybe a complete absence in the former DPRK (which is a wise diplomatic move, methinks), but not a wholesale departure.


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