We lost a lot of dangerous political nutjobs this year: Osama bin Laden, Moammar Khadafi, Steve Jobs. But here today we mourn Kim Jong-il, supreme leader of North Korea because he made the rest of them look like pikers: a true, old-school dictator who managed to take a turn at the helm of a third-rate country and parlay it into a source of tremendous global strength, named in 2010 as one of the most powerful people in the world by Fortune magazine.
North Korea, roughly the size of Pennsylvania, split from the south after World War II and became Soviet territory. The Korean War, the first armed battle of the Cold War which began in 1950 when the north invaded the south, gave the country significance even though the state-owned economy was a shambles, famine was widespread and the only thing going for it was a kick-ass army.
His passing is notable for many reasons — the laughs inspired by his bio among them — but mostly because dictators like Jong-il are becoming a thing of the past.
Jong-il came into power in 1994, after his father passed, and emphasized this military strength, even as his people suffered in hunger and poverty. This led to a standing army of more than 1 million; for comparison, the US has about 1.5 million active personnel. He also pushed a nuclear weapons program. As a result, the tiny nation now has the capability to manufacture perhaps 8 nuclear missiles, which is not a lot in the grand scheme of things — the US currently sits on an estimated 5,000 or so warheads — but was enough to cause global concern during Jong-il’s reign because, frankly, the guy was a nutcase.
Let us recap the highlights of the Supreme Leader’s life, according to his official — and unofficial — biographies.
His birth in 1941, on a mountain peak, was announced by a swallow and celebrated with a spontaneous double rainbow and a new star in the sky. He was able to walk at three weeks of age, and able to talk at five weeks.
He loved movies, and attempted to jump-start North Korea’s film industry by kidnapping a South Korean starlet and her director husband. And in a two0year span he composed six full-length operas.
He dined on lobster in his personal rail car, spent more than $800,000 a year on Hennessey and shot a -38 his very first time on a golf course, registering 11 holes in one as verified by 17 witnesses, all of whom happened to be his bodyguards. A song about him, composed by himself, is often piped through loudspeakers on city streets.
Many North Koreans believe that he can control the weather, and that he has never had a bowel movement.
His passing is notable for many reasons — the laughs inspired by his bio among them — but mostly because dictators like Jong-il are becoming a thing of the past. Modern communications technology and rising literacy rates make it impossible to perpetrate fraud on such a massive scale ever again. YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.