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Despot's death offers historic opportunity to improve North Korea

Few deaths in world history have brought such an odd mix of opportunity and dread.


“Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il’s demise – likely from a high-fat diet, enjoyed while his people starved – could be a historic chance for the isolated and
belligerent North Korea to jump on civilization’s caboose. There are some remote Amazonian tribes that are infinitely more approachable.

But that kind of enlightened change is unlikely in a country that goes dark every night, save for the homes of the favored, and whose indoctrinated masses shed tears for a man the rest of us know they’re way better off without.

And with Jong Il’s anointing of his third son, Kim Jong Un, to carry on the family business – the smoothest-running prison in modern times – the fear is that matters might only deteriorate. For all we know, the “Great Successor” is a 20-something with all the power of a nuclear-tipped tyrant and all the sense of a Lindsay Lohan. Until we hear the new leader say “Follow me on Twitter,” we have to
assume the worst.

Certainly the United States and South Korea have to plan for it. Indeed, North Korea fired test missiles Monday, and not as any salute to its fallen captor. This is the behavior of a wounded animal, not a nation of souls eager to share the planet.

Around the world, and especially in America, Kim Jong Il has been great fodder for jokes – including his penchant for clothes shopping at Western Auto. But his regime has been a leading arms trafficker among the world’s ne’er-do-wells, and has used its malnourished countrymen as unwitting pawns with which to extort the West for free food and forbearance.

The good news is that today’s omnipresent news and social media have helped create a new dawn in human evolution. One of the most fascinating and welcome results is that it’s more difficult than ever for dictators
and despots to hide their
glutinous underbellies. The “Arab Spring” might never have happened without the connectivity of the Internet. When that liberating tsunami of human connectedness will wash over the rest of the Korean peninsula is anyone’s guess.

Our friends in North Korea desperately need their status updated.

This editorial department once played a trick on an unsuspecting contributor who volunteered to write an editorial on the ever-urgent “North Korea situation.”

“Well, OK, but be delicate,” one of us facetiously warned the writer, new to town. “We have a very large North Korean community in Augusta.”

“Yeah,” another of us deadpanned without missing a beat. “We call it ‘Little Pyongyang.’”

The joke, of course, is that such a thing is impossible as long as North Korea is a fortress of isolation, despair and top-down xenophobia. But the jokes get less funny as time, and the North Koreans’ interminable suffering, goes on.

We long for the day when an open, peaceful, civil and well-fed North Korea makes a “Little Pyongyang” possible.


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A man of belief