The mysteries of North Korea and the “first communist dynasty in history”

Joe Biden has already stated that it is necessary to "put an end to the Korean farce", accusing Trump of having only given the show. He did not say, however, how he himself intends to tackle a problem that exists and is not at all fictional. The Korean case is really complicated and an armed intervention risks having incalculable consequences

The expression "communist dynasty" is in itself an oxymoron. In theory, there should be no such thing, under penalty of immediate contradiction. Yet it is by no means an empty expression without a referent, as demonstrated by a recent essay by Stefano Felician Beccari, “Kim's Korea. Geopolitics and history of a disputed peninsula ” ( Salerno Editrice , Rome).

The author received his PhD in geopolitics funded by the Defense Staff, and now conducts research at the Military Center for Strategic Studies (Cemiss) in Rome. How is it possible, then, the existence of what has been called "the first communist dynasty in history"?

Felician Beccari starts from afar because he is anxious, first of all, to frame the phenomenon in the context of a millenary culture like that of Korea, capable in some historical periods of freeing itself from the nearby Chinese colossus and even confronting the Japan of the Samurai.

Obviously what interests the author is to reconstruct as precisely as possible the history of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its foundation (1948) to the present day. A country practically impenetrable to outside observers, the DPRK represents the latest example of the so-called "real socialism" achieved in the former Soviet Union and in the nations connected to it, especially the one in force during the Stalinist period.

This makes North Korea undoubtedly interesting in the eyes of analysts, constituting a one-of-a-kind case study . In its territory, time seems to have stopped immediately after the war, with the five-year plans, the typical choreography of the communist regimes when Stalin was alive and a very strong cult of personality and entirely centered on the current leader .

Uniqueness, however, is mainly provided by another element. In the country, power is held, precisely since the foundation, by a single family and is in fact transmitted from father to son without any solution of continuity. The family is obviously that of the Kims who, after having obtained complete control of the party and the armed forces, continue to govern with an iron hand without anyone – at least in appearance – dare to oppose.

The saga begins with founder Kim Il-sung (Kim I) who skilfully took advantage of the Cold War and Stalinist support to proclaim the Socialist Republic in the northern part of the Korean peninsula. Then came the support of Mao's China, whose massive intervention in the 1950-53 war prevented the defeat of the North, and the permanent division of the nation into two parts, one linked to the Western bloc and the other to the Soviet one. .

Kim I soon got rid of any opponent and promoted the cult of his person in the country. Little by little it assumed almost divine connotations also thanks to the doctrine of Juche , the Korean version of Marxism-Leninism which insists in particular on national independence and self-sufficiency. The sovereignty of the popular masses is exalted, whose aspirations, however, are interpreted by a Supreme Leader who concentrates all power in his hands.

When the founder dies in 1994, Supreme Leader becomes his son Kim Jong-il (Kim II), who follows his father's path. However, note that, according to the country's official history, Kim Il-sung died only physically. In fact he has somehow risen to heaven from where he continues to lead the nation. And, in fact, he still holds the title of president. Therefore the cult of the personality has over time transformed into a religious cult in all respects. In the Pyongyang mausoleum, the embalmed body of the founder is less important than his spirit, which from above continues to govern and protect the DPRK.

And we have come to the present day. When Kim Jong-il passed away in 2011, his son Kim Jong-un (Kim III), the current leader, succeeds him. Reforms were expected from him that did not come, also because the rigid structure of the regime does not allow it. Yet even China, practically the only ally left to North Korea, is pushing in this direction, worried that Pyongyang has in the meantime equipped itself with a nuclear arsenal capable of threatening neighboring countries (and not only).

Kim Jong-un continues to count on the loyalty of the party and the army also because it is seen as the best tool to guarantee the continuity of one of the longest-lived dictatorial regimes in history, even superior to the dictatorship of the Castro brothers in Cuba which began in January 1959. .

A sense of mystery remains at the end of the narrative. How is it possible that a single family manages to establish itself for such a long period, transmitting absolute power through dynastic ways without causing a mass rebellion, which would be justified by the conditions in which the population lives?

Seventy years may seem short, but they are very long if we remember that the regime has remained as it is while in the rest of the world there have been epochal changes. The North Korean media claim that the "Eternal President", Kim Il-sung (Kim I), from beyond protects North Korea with his immense goodness and infinite wisdom. But the story never stopped. It is therefore sufficient to wait for it to start up again there too.

The author of the volume notes that North Korea evokes the image of a country out of history, ruled by a lunatic and murderous dictator. At best, Kim Jong-un's is described as an eccentric regime, ferocious and gloomy in its remote totalitarian greyness. And to succeed Kim III will almost certainly be the young 33-year-old sister Kim Yo-jong, who already has the party's propaganda and espionage apparatus in hand.

It is practically impossible, as the author of the volume points out, to explain the many mysteries of the "Hermit Kingdom". However, it is necessary to acknowledge its presence and the privileged relations it still maintains with Beijing, always remembering that its nuclear arsenal represents a real danger for the whole world.

And in this case the United States plays an important role, albeit weakened by the institutional chaos following the recent US presidential elections. Donald Trump sought dialogue with the regime by meeting Kim III in person and crossing – the first American president to do so – the dividing line between the two Koreas. However, at least for now, the meetings have not achieved any concrete effects, since the regime does not seem at all willing to give up nuclear weapons.

And it is interesting to note, in this regard, how Joe Biden has already stated that it is necessary to "put an end to the Korean farce", accusing Trump of having only given show. He did not say, however, how he himself intends to tackle a problem that exists and is not at all fictitious. It is known that US Democrats are more inclined than Republicans to intervene militarily abroad, but the Korean case is really complicated and an armed intervention risks having incalculable consequences.

In conclusion, the author of the volume points out that it is necessary to analyze the Korean question without any superficialism, and "understand why a world that appears absurd, surreal and often comical to us is actually much more concrete, real and articulated". In short, there is a need for a good dose of realism, and without a doubt even Biden, like it or not, will have to use it.

The post The mysteries of North Korea and of the “first communist dynasty in history” appeared first on Atlantico Quotidiano .

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Sat, 21 Nov 2020 04:10:00 +0000.