Lately I’ve been running into a strange phenomenon when I’ve been talking to people about North Korea, and it is many people either believe that Kim Jong Un is secretly a reformer, or that North Korea isn’t as bad as everyone has made it out to be. When I ask these people why they think these things, mostly it’s based on feelings or assumptions, but I’ll go into their reasoning for both below.
1) Kim Jong Un is secretly a reformer, but he can’t move too quickly because the Army won’t let him. A lot of this one is based on the idea that since he spent a lot of time when he was growing up in Switzerland he most like western culture and be a reformer. It must be based on the past history of other leaders, like Bashar al-Assad who spent time in the west and became liberal democrats. Another argument I hear is that his father never would have been seen being so friendly with an American like Dennis Rodman, but this ignores how much Kim Jong Il liked the Chicago Bulls, Hollywood movies, and Micheal Jordan. Perhaps the most absurd thing that I’ve heard is that since Kim Jong Un is investing in tourism, such as the new Ski Resort, it is a sign that he wants to open the country up to foreign visitors. This ignores the fact that this is money that should go to feeding his people, and even more so that maybe he just wanted to go skiing but can’t travel widely, especially now that the UN might be referring him to the Hague.
2) People who believe that North Korea can’t really be all that bad seem to base this on the idea that you can’t trust the US because of the whole Iraq fiasco or other similar issues. Part of this is also based on, I think, the fact that for quite awhile during the Cold War North Korea was doing better than the South. The most offensive is when they argue that the defectors are biased and can’t be trusted.
Anybody else out there heard from apologists why North Korea and Kim Jong Un really aren’t so bad?