To release news of Kim Jong Il’s death, North Korea’s government stuck a woman newsreader in front of a TV camera, where she sobbed and wept her way through the announcement. In coming days we can expect to see a lot more North Korean wailing and weeping. For such lamentation over the death of a monster, North Koreans at least have the excuse that they have been bombarded all their lives with Kim’s propaganda, and if that didn’t do the job, they could be shipped off to the North Korean prison camps, with their families, to be starved and beaten into a more acceptable posture of deference. Whatever their private views, they have plenty of reasons to weep.
The rest of the world has no such excuse. Nonetheless, CNN’s all-night all-North Korea coverage has already been featuring a parade of commentators warning that we must be tactful with North Korean feelings at this “delicate” time. I fear that we are about to witness a diplomatic outpouring of condolences to North Korea on the death of Kim. Already, reports the AFP, the Japanese government has done exactly that — issuing a statement that “We express our condolences upon receiving the announcement of the sudden pasing of Kim Jong Il, the chairman of the National Defense Committee of North Korea.”
Please. There are moments when diplomatic lies have their uses. The death of Kim is not one of them. He was a mass-murdering tyrant, a cosmic cheat whose brand of power entailed abductions and terrorist killings, proliferating missiles and nuclear plans to other rogue powers, running narcotics and counterfeiting rackets out of his embassies, stunting his own country, maintaining Stalin-style prison camps and starving to death an estimated million or more of his own countrymen.
There are some nations whose governments may genuinely regret the death of Kim, for the reason that he was a handy business partner in their missile and nuclear proliferation ventures, or a convenient irritant and menace to the West. Iran and Syria will surely send flowers. China and Russia will likely make some ritual display of grief. And there are some that in their quest for solidarity, or perhaps for business, apparently have no shame. The same Korean Central News Agency web site now reporting Kim’s death still features such recent news items as the goodwill visit just made by Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, to Tanzania — where he was reportedly received by the president.
But for any self-respecting free nation, or for that matter, any multilateral crew that pretends to defend human rights and dignity (the United Nations comes to mind) there can be no excuse to send condolences to North Korea on the death of Kim. Far from gaining the goodwill and cooperation of whomever, or whatever, now takes power in Pyongyang, any show of respect would only help to preserve Kim’s monstrous system. If condolences should be sent, they should be sent not to the government of North Korea, but to North Korea’s 23 million people — and they should be condolences not for the death of Kim Jong Il, but for his long and ruinous life.