I am not at all surprised that the media, in South Korea and, indeed, around the world, is taken with Kim Yo-jong, the telegenic and media-savvy younger sister of North Korean
madman dictator Kim Jong-un.
Any time that North and South Koreans hold official talks is newsworthy, so Ms Kim’s visit is, indeed, news ~ and, potentially, good news, and her coincidental appearances with US Vice President Pence also drew global attention, especially because Vice President Pence seemed uncomfortable in her company while Ms Kim smiled like the cheshire cat … but we need to remember who and what she is: most importantly that “She is believed to be a deputy director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Department of Propaganda and Agitation, a key post in the propaganda-heavy totalitarian state,” according to a report in the New York Times.
Agitprop, as it used to be called in the old and unlamented USSR, is a mix of agitation ~ stirring people up, often with bald faced lies, about one issues, and propaganda, which might, often, use the truth to “set the scene” for agitation. It worked and I’m guessing it still works.
Kim Jong-un is in a tight spot: his country is militarily powerful but, in every other respect, in every respect that matters, it is teetering on the brink of disaster and collapse. He must retain China’s active support ~ his HUGE army and his nukes are meaningless if the people rise up in revolt due to mass starvation, and his army needs fuel and food from China to be kept on his side. The most telling image is, perhaps, this one: Asia, from space, is awash with bright lights, everywhere except North Korean (outlined) which is dark because the country cannot afford street lights and cars and bright neon signs. The country is, as far as most observers can
tell guess, a socio-economic basket case that is ready to collapse if pushed in (or from) just the right direction.
Kim Jong-un is, in my guesstimation, trying to do what Prime Minister Trudeau needs to do so often: to change the channel. The PyeongChang winter Olympics provide a perfect opportunity for Agitprop operations aimed, narrowly, at South Korea (a charm offensive) and the world. Kim Yo-jong may be the mastermind of that charm offensive; she has, certainly, become the visible face of it … doubtless as she and her Agitprop bureau planned or, at least, hoped. I’m not blaming the media for any of this: she is newsworthy just because of who she is and what she represents. And that’s what we must all keep in mind even as we take note of her undoubted impact and her potential to be some sort of agent for change in the two Koreas.
Every indication is that the enthusiasm for reunification of the two Koreas is less than it was with my generation. We saw that happen in Germany, too. People get used to almost anything and change, of any kind, even change that ought to seem inevitable, will be resisted. Is Korean reunification inevitable? I think so … but I doubt it will be simple, unless China makes it so. I remain convinced that China has a large, loyal “fifth column” in North Korea. I suspect that many of the most senior North Korean officials and generals are loyal to China, not to Kim Jong-un. I also guess that more officials and generals are on South Korea’s payroll than are loyal to Kim Jong-un. But that still doesn’t make taking Kim down and replacing him with s Chinese puppet regime a sure thing or even an easy thing. But it is a possibility, one of which I am sure both Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong are very conscious.
Right now North Korea is still doing more good than harm for China: it focuses east Asian attention, especially, but also America’s attentions on a “supporting actor” while the “lead,” Xi Jinping, makes his strategic moves in the South China Seas, throughout East Asia and, indeed, around the world. That can, and I suspect, will change. The line between asset and liability is fine and grey … as soon as North Korea loses its value, as I am convinced it will, China will begin to act to replace Kim Jong-un with someone whose actions will meet China’s needs. I wonder if Ms Kim Yo-jong is positioning herself to be that replacement; is she getting ready to step forward when Kim Jong-un is yanked aside? Is she already on someone’s payroll? Does she have ambitions of her own? Or is Kim Jong-un actually grooming her to take over and be loyal to the family dynasty? I don’t know … sadly, I’m afraid that not many others (possibly none in the US led West) know either.
It is the worst sort of folly, I believe, to treat Kim Yo-jong as some sort of media created celebrity, as an ice-princess. She is a powerful woman in her own right inside North Korea and, therefore, she is important to regional and perhaps even global peace and security. She has now moved into closer view: we must learn what we can about her aims and plans, always bearing in mind that she most probably is, amongst other things, a deputy director of North Korea’s Department of Propaganda and Agitation, so her performance, her every move, smile and word, is likely carefully orchestrated, choreographed and “performed” … but she’s not Gabrielle Daleman.