In the course of the week, the media was awash with the visit to China, of the North Korean Supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, his first ever visit outside North Korea since taking over the reins of government in 2011 following the death of his father. The China visit came in the wake of the announcement of a possible meet between Kim Jong Un with his arch-enemy, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, his South Korean counterpart and the Japanese Prime Minister later in the year.
Prior to his current outreach, Kim Jong Un, placed the entire world on a dangerous precipice whose outcome could have been war. He transcended the rhetoric of armament and war which so far characterised his leadership, to that of belligerent action when in November, 2017, he undertook a missile launch, which it was claimed had the capacity to hit the United States with intercontinental ballistic missile. President Trump’s response to this was to dish out economic and political sanctions to North Korea.
Surprisingly, Kim, while in China, pledged to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and offered an olive branch to both the United States of America and South Korea for a peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Peninsula. With the current rapprochement and the hope for future ones, it gladdens the heart that Kim Jong Un, after all, is not about to set the world on fire by bombarding the United States of America or any of its known allies across the world. It may finally turn out that all his bravado about arms and destruction was conceived as a sort of diplomatic tool to be deployed by the leader for either his personal benefit or that of his people.
Thrust at the scene as his country’s leaders as a shy, twenty-five year old boy, Kim and his handlers could have felt, and rightly too, that the young leader needed some more experiences before his engagement with the world. Thus, the first six years were used to garner the required experience, create a persona for the leader, market that persona with whatever means available including the execution of an uncle and the murder of a brother in an international soil. Thus, instead of the prima facie appearance as a shy young man unsure of his steps, Kim gradually acquired a global reputation as a ruthless and no-nonsense ruler to be feared at home and abroad. Kim’s hold on his country is total that it is not an exaggeration to say that inside North Korea, his night dreams become laws for his country men and women. His control was absolute as he regulates even the hair styles adorned by North Koreans.
The stories about life and its wretchedness in North Korea are chilling. Public utilities are non-functional. Productive industries are simply dead and citizens have to depend on rationing of essential commodities to survive. Indeed, North Korea sits at the bottom of every developmental index where, paradoxically, its sister nation, South Korea sits atop. If the outside world is in agreement that poverty walks the streets of North Korea, they will never be right to ascribe the blame for this to Kim Jong Un. They were much of the conditions he met on the ground following his emergence as a leader of his nation.
What has remained visible to the global world with Kim’s visit to China is the fact that the leader has come of age. In this case, it will be possible to assume that a number of atrocious acts ascribed to him in the past could have been the handiwork of a leadership college or a proxy who wielded secret power while the visible leader matures. Diplomatic briefings and secrets held about Kim by many countries suggest that he was educated in Europe, Switzerland and Germany precisely. Progress and developments in these two nations contradict hugely the barbarism that is attributed to North Korea under Kim and they justify my hunch that he may, after all, not be responsible for the iniquities ascribed to his government.
Kim’s first international engagement may have revealed the real Kim that the world is eager to meet. He has come across in China as a peace maker, a leader in pursuit of the good life and development for his people. Even if this current picture of him is at variance with what hitherto was known of him, he is poised to use that bad leader image to negotiate for good life for his people.