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Hitchens on the North Korean necrocracy

Wednesday, 9 August, 2017

When North Korean media declared Kim Jong-il to be the reincarnation of Kim Il Sung, the late, great, greatly-missed Christopher Hitchens said there never had been “such a blatant attempt to create a necrocracy, or perhaps mausolocracy, in which a living claimant assumes the fleshly mantle of the departed.” In Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, Hitchens was typically acerbic about the hideous Kim cult:

“The fervor and single-mindedness of this deification probably have no precedent in history. It’s not like Duvalier or Assad passing the torch to the son and heir. It surpasses anything I have read about the Roman or Babylonian or even Pharaonic excesses. An estimated $2.68 billion was spent on ceremonies and monuments in the aftermath of Kim Il Sung’s death. The concept is not that his son is his successor, but that his son is his reincarnation. North Korea has an equivalent of Mount Fuji — a mountain sacred to all Koreans. It’s called Mount Paekdu, a beautiful peak with a deep blue lake, on the Chinese border. Here, according to the new mythology, Kim Jong Il was born on February 16, 1942. His birth was attended by a double rainbow and by songs of praise (in human voice) uttered by the local birds. In fact, in February 1942 his father and mother were hiding under Stalin’s protection in the dank Russian city of Khabarovsk, but as with all miraculous births it’s considered best not to allow the facts to get in the way of a good story.”

Where now? Well, we know that sanctions have never brought down a single tyrant in the history of their use. In fact, as Cuba demonstrates, they provide a substantial prop for power based on impoverishment. On the other hand, the idea that no North Korean provocation, however outrageous, can be confronted, lest it provide a pretext for the “Mount Paektu Bloodline” to do something truly insane cannot be tolerated much longer. “Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last,” Churchill said about a different, but similar, madman.


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