The Korea Herald


[Editorial] State as an enigma

By 최남현

Published : Feb. 17, 2011 - 18:18

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North Korea is a country of so many contradictions that it defies ordinary people’s attempt to understand it. Even outside foreign policy experts closely watching North Korea often feel baffled by presumably unexplainable events happening in the communist state. In short, it is a perpetual enigma to the outside world.

The latest series of events concerning North Korea is a case in point. North Korea, whose population is starving, had a lavish celebration of the 70th birthday of its leader Kim Jong-il on Wednesday. According to one ballpark estimate, it cost about $7 million.

North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world. It begs for food from foreign countries and international aid agencies. Yet, it is channeling a large portion of what poor resources it holds in its possession into the development of both conventional and nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said on Wednesday North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs poses a threat to security in the region and beyond. The communist state, he added, has shown its willingness to sell its nuclear technology.

Another bizarre case involved Kim Jong-il’s second oldest son, Jong-chol. He was seen to be enjoying himself at Eric Clapton’s Valentine’s Day concert in Singapore ― a sharp contrast with the sorry image of malnourished North Korean children. Shortly after the concert, he and his 20-man entourage left for North Korea, one of the countries most isolated from the outside world.

This string of events drew all the keener attention from the outside world as they happened at a time when authoritarian rulers in the Arab world were being toppled by people demanding democracy. Can the day be far away when Kim Jong-il and his family feel the threat of being ousted?