Gally in South Korea: Kim Jong-Il Dead

Posted: .:December.19.2011:. in Artwork, Culture, Photographs, Travel, Voice
Tags: , , , , , ,

Seoul, photo by Christine Lines, © 2011

My husband and I were planning to go to Seoul today like we so often do.  We woke up late, lazily took a shower, talked about where we would hang out.  Carrying a bowl of chocolate Korean cereal to the living room, I flipped on the T.V. and immediately saw the headline.

Kim Jong-Il died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, but it looks like they waited until this Monday morning to announce it to the world.  Korean news channels like KBS and SBS are covering it all, the ROK military and government officials are on alert, but the South Korean president is urging citizens to go about their daily lives.  It’s 1:50 P.M. now and I still haven’t heard anything from the U.S. military over here, but I imagine they will soon follow suit.  So far, it doesn’t look like North Korea is ramping up their military.

We’re staying put at home today for reasons I can’t explain.  I’ve got Korean T.V. news and live streaming American news online in the background while I type this.  I’m not worried about North Korea doing anything nuts today; they’ve declared a 10-day mourning period.  But after that?  Only time will tell.  Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-Un, has been prepared to take over for some time now.  He’s young (20-something) and inexperienced, but has been allowed to study abroad and have exposure to the world, so I can only hope he’s not going to be as crazy and closed-minded as his father.

No one will celebrate in South Korea.  This won’t be like when Osama bin Laden died and Americans went out into the streets to celebrate.  Many South Koreans will be quiet, maybe not even talk about it.  It just doesn’t cross their minds on a daily basis that North Korea is right at their door, that they’ve had artillery within firing range of Seoul since the cease fire (Seoul is one of the world’s megacities, most of the South Korean population lives there); they would go mad if they thought about it all the time.  And even if anyone were to make a big scene out of it, no news channels would broadcast it here.  It’d be deemed disrespectful, and more importantly, provoking.  South Koreans as a whole are non-confrontational, and no one here wants war.

It surprises me how many people don’t know much about what’s going on between North and South Korea, so let me break it down like this.  The Koreas are still at war.  There was no peace treaty, only a cease fire.  To this day, some families are still separated between the two sides, only allowed to see each other through a fence when Kim Jong Il is in a generous mood, so really just once a year or so.

Kim Jong-Il was a diabolical bastard, a malicious tyrant, a modern-day Stalin.  Broadcasts out of North Korea look like a scene from the Olympics in China, but behind the lens, it’s essentially a Cold War gulag, a WWII concentration camp that spans the entire country.  Millions are starved, forced into harsh labor, tortured, raped, killed. Any aid that goes to the country goes straight to Kim and his top officials. Even adolescent North Korean girls are given to his officials as wives. Escape into China is a suicide mission; if you aren’t shot by North Korean soldiers, Chinese soldiers will try, and even if you make it past all of them, Chinese citizens are paid for turning in North Koreans and Chinese police will patrol in front of embassies to catch and return you to North Korea for execution.

People often ask why there’s never an uprising, especially now that movements like the “Arab Spring” and Occupy Wallstreet seem to erupt around the world.  When the government has a tendency to execute an entire family for the dissent of just one family member, especially for attempted or successful escape, people typically prefer complacency.  And when people are taught their leader is a god, required to have pictures of him and his father in every room, and to go against “Ju-chae” (basically the religion of Communism) is sin, you can imagine the brainwashing throughout the country.  North Koreans are taught that their country is a paradise, that the rest of the world is a diseased hell filled with cruelty and corruption like capitalism, and there’s no communication with the outside world except what some underground dissenters manage to get through the internet.

Japan has just expressed their “condolences.”  South Korea will probably do the same.  I’m eager to see Obama’s reaction to all this.  I hope he makes an address soon.

☠ Gally

Photo © Christine Lines 2011
Blog post © Christine Lines 12.19.11

  1. slpmartin says:

    Indeed it will be interesting to see how various world leaders approach this…I suspect with political politeness.

  2. Betsy says:

    I hope everything stays as peaceful as it gets there. ):

    • Everything will be fine, Betsy <3 So far, it seems like Americans are freaking out about this more than anyone :P It's funny, but I can't stand reading comments on news articles anymore just because of the sheer amount of ignorance people display about North and South Korea and their cultures (liek omgz, can americas takes overz nort koera noww?? r they go nuke south koera??), which is part of why I wrote this and have been editing it with new info throughout the day.

      Besides, even if anything were to happen, the U.S. military hasn't been over here for decades twiddling their thumbs. There's constant surveillance, evacuation protocols, reinforcements standing at the ready, etc. Hell, I have my own gas mask :D

      It's all good :] We'll probably take our delayed trip to Seoul tomorrow.

  3. Wow we hear things but not things that are so blatantly evil and cruel… lets see what happens next…

  4. mcclaud says:

    I’m not so sure if the present declared leader Kim Jung Un will be able to hold everything together without some dissent from the present military leadership in NDK. Ever since Kim Jung Il announced he was sick and his heir, there’s been some sort of murmur in the North Korean military body.

    The worst of it is that North Korea may have a coup that will destablize the country and create violence on the Peninsula. The best of it is that Kim Jung Un seizes control, holds it together and makes some progressive advancement in North Korea. I have a feeling it will fall somewhere in the middle.

    • It’s understandable that some people would worry about a coup, but it’s not likely; Kim Jong Il during the two or so years he’s been grooming his son to be his heir has killed or imprisoned any officials in the gulags who have expressed any dislike or doubt about his son. Fear is instilled in them, so we’ll see if Kim Jong Un uses that to his advantage.

  5. Chris G. says:

    Interesting to consider the different reactions across the borders. While Kim’s death is pretty much the headline news over here in the U.S., and you have some folks reacting as though it is some great victory, I’d say on the whole reaction is kind of…tame. I too am interested to hear what Obama will say on the matter, though our news seems to keep going back to the whole fact you brought up – the emergency alert – and acting like South Korea’s about to hop skip and jump into war with the north. It’s rather silly. But then, I do suppose we like our drama.

    • Oh yeah, believe me, South Korea will do anything it can to avoid war. They’ve even saved $1 trillion over the years just in case they have to reunify. It’s weird; South Koreans feel bad about what the North Koreans are going through, but many of them don’t want reunification because South Korea has finally become a major economic power in the world, and the cost of reunification would be astronomical. It’d be like East and West Germany all over again; it’ll take decades to recover. But they would still prefer this over war.

  6. Sandra says:

    Hey, keep blogging your inside take on this. I would love to hear things from where you are. Be careful too.

  7. My hope is that since Kim Jung Un went to school in Switzerland he may have been been influenced by western styles of thinking and leading.

    I look forward to you next post.


  8. I highly doubt North Korea will try anything on South Korea. Unless Un is a madman bent on killing everyone. I didn’t agree with celebrating Bin Ladens death, it was stupid to celebrate the death of such a significant individual, especially since his main focus was bringing terror to the western world. Once I heard of Ill’s death, I simply said “oh wow, seems out of nowhere.” If I made a comment like “I hope that bastard is burning”, would that really make a difference? No, but what would it do? The man is dead, that’s a fact, and even though he was a maniacal ass, it is still a loss of life. Hate an individual all you want while they are alive, but shaming them after they are dead only hurts you. How does SK’s military stack up to NK? You mentioned artillery in the vicinity of Seoul, does SK have the same advantage? I believe many more would attempt the escape from NK if they were welcomed with open arms by the Chinese government, however if they were to just shoot them while trying to come to their country, what is the point? They are somewhat forced to stay in NK not only due to their cruel ways, but the neighboring countries as well. it is truly a shame how mistreated young girls are, though that goes for many cultures and countries. I agree with you on the lack of uprisings, it is hard to rebel when the world around you is censored because you have no idea what else is there for you. Most rebellions have a goal, or a reason behind it, but how do you question something when you’ve been brainwashed your whole life to believe it is the right way? I’m interested to see how this plays out.

    By the way, really nice to hear from you! I hope you and your husband are doing well in SK (minus the recent concerns)

    Peace, Mr. Mojo Risin

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