The Death of ‘Dear Leader’

Jacob Laksin is a senior writer for Front Page Magazine. He is co-author, with David Horowitz, of The New Leviathan (Crown Forum, 2012), and One-Party Classroom (Crown Forum, 2009). Email him at jlaksin@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @jlaksin.


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In the 1990s, when industrial production collapsed, triggering nationwide famines, the labor camps became death camps. As many as one third of prisoners in these camps died in the early 1990s under hideous conditions. Eyewitness accounts by former guards tell of starvation so extreme that prisoners tried to eat undigested grains in animal feces. Even this was considered a crime, and many prisoners were executed for trying to survive. In honor of his father’s death in 1994, Kim Jong-Il issued a brief stay on the executions. Before long though, he decided that he wanted to “hear the sound of gunshots again.” Firing squads were told to aim at the heads because they were filled with “the wrong thoughts.”

Life outside the camps was scarcely better. During the 1980s, Kim Il-Sung’s policy of juche, loosely translated as self-reliance, resulted in North Korea severing most of its trading ties, including with traditional partners like China and the Soviet Union. Concurrently, a state-controlled economy impeded agricultural production. What little money was in the state treasury was funneled toward the military.

North Korea thus had little defense against economic crises. A famine from 1995 to 1997 killed two million to three million North Koreans. The few visitors who managed to make their way into the country bore witness to the devastation and brought back reports of children eating grass to survive. Refugees told stories of cannibalism, with families protecting the bodies of deceased relatives lest they be consumed by starving neighbors.

Famine and malnutrition has left a permanent effect on the North Korean populace. A 2002 UN European Survey found an average 7-year-old boy in North Korea was 20 centimeters shorter and 22 pounds lighter than his counterpart in South Korea. Not even the army, traditionally the best fed profession outside the ranks of the Communist Party elite, was immune from these effects. North Korean soldiers are reportedly six inches shorter than South Korean soldiers. North Koreans suffered these torments in silence. They had little choice. Objecting was tantamount to treason and in the 1990s thousands of “complainers” were sent to the prison camps.

While his people starved, Kim Jong-Il denied himself few pleasures. His taste for expensive drink ran to a cellar stocked with 10,000 French wines. North Koreans survived on the equivalent of $900 a year. Kim Jong-Il spent $700,000 annually just on his beloved Hennessy cognac. Even as North Korea appealed to the UN for food relief, Kim Jong-Il retained a personal sushi chef and enjoyed rare delicacies like shark-fin soup. While traveling on his personal train, he had live lobsters flown in at stops along the way. North Koreans toiled to death in silver mines. Kim Jong-Il dined with silver chopsticks.

To account for the injustices he visited on his people, Kim Jong-Il directed the blame abroad. In the state-enforced ideology, North Korea is the victim of outside forces, most prominently the United States and South Korea. Entire museums are devoted to anti-American propaganda. Generations of North Koreans have been raised on horror stories about the “bloody atrocities of the eternal enemies of the North Korean people – American imperialism, Japanese colonialism, and their South Korean puppets.” Not surprisingly, North Koreans today believe that the United States and South Korea started the Korean War, the inverse of what actually happened.

Above all, North Koreans have been forced to worship at the altar of the Kims. Brainwashing begins from youth. North Korea’s education system is designed to serve the personality cult. The first phrase schoolchildren learn is to pay homage to their “great leader, comrade Kim Il Sung.” As adults, they take part in elaborate rituals of gratitude to the “dear leader” for helping them in their daily lives.

Wholesale suppression of dissent and the country’s isolation from the outside world has taken a profound toll on North Koreans. Where people in other totalitarian countries often opposed their regimes in private moments, North Koreans, according to some visitors, show no sign of political dissent. Slavish obedience is all they know. If true, this too is Kim Jong-Il’s legacy.

That may explain the last image of Kim Jong-Il’s monstrous rule: North Koreans weeping hysterically upon his death. It’s impossible to know how much of this orchestrated grief was sincere and how much of it was motivated by fear of the regime. Either way, it is a heartbreaking sight to behold. Of his legion of atrocities, perhaps Kim Jong-Il’s greatest crime is the one inflicted on the minds of his long-suffering people.

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  • Alvaro

    North Korea is a sad reminder that the minds of the people can be manipulated into anything at will, as long as the government is in total control of the media, education system, etc. The fact that the regime was able to survive politically through the famine of the 90s shows just how effective they have been. The North Korean people are paying a terrible price, though.

  • UCSPanther

    I call North Korea a "prison state", since living there is like living in a maximum security lockup 24/7 from cradle to grave, there is no parole, the only surefire way to be released is through death, and few have ever escaped.

    As long as the Kim Il Sung dynasty can maintain their position as "wardens", I fear that place will remain closed forever more, and their "imprisoned" subjects will continue to suffer, and I weep for those born into that system.

  • tarleton

    what a group of munchkins …they should be singing ''hey ho the witch is dead , the wicked , wicked witch is dead ''

  • tarleton

    In the 20th C the great totalitarian movements are but the religious impulse channneled into secular form and N Korea is but the remnants of the soviet paradise in the form of a cult of personality …it's frightening to think that these paranoid , delusional nutters have nuclear weapons

    Lenin , Hitler and Mau were all ''religious fanatics'' in secular form …human anachronisms trapped in the wrong century …after all , it's easy to imagine a hysterical Hitler as an Austrian christian caught up in the turmoil of the Reformation , or Lenin as a Russian holy man on a quest for God , or maybe Mau as a chinese peasant burning with the zeal of the converted during the Taiping Rebellion …hmmmm …even the serene and iconic Felix Dzerzhinsky wouldn't be out of place as Grand Inquisitor during medieval times

    • Tychicus

      Not one single anabaptist was executed under Calvin's rule of Geneva. They were infact reasoned with and released beyond the city limits. The idea of comparison between Hitler and the Reformers is complete ignorant bunk.
      -Tychicus

      • Robert Pinkerton

        Calvin did burn Michael Servetus. Too, transplanted Calvinism (Puritan Salem, Mass.) proved vulnerable to the witch craze.

      • tarleton

        martin luther was very fortunate indeed not to be burned like jan Huss….the siege of Munster and Bartholomues Day Massacre were the ''real deal'' religious fanatics ….you christian folk would like to airbrush those type of events from the pages of history

  • kafir

    Sadness at the White House as President Stinky's (BO) ideological equal, mentor, and secret pen pal as KJI is laid to rest. Send Stinky a condolence card, or call the White House. Let the President know his friendship with NK will not be forgotten.

    • Amused

      man, what a juvenile f—ikng idiot you are kafir .LOL…and there's atleast one other brain damaged idiot to give a thumbs up .

  • jacob

    And though, our "leaders" scared to death of it, kept on brownnosing him and
    giving him food a nd fuel, in order to keep him from nuking South Korea and
    perhaps Japan as well…

    He got away scott free from all his violations, included the deliberate sinking
    of the S. Korean ship and everythig is hunky-dory, right ??

    Now his "technicias" are helping IRAN achieve its goal of a nuclear bomb and
    neither our President noir the Rotten Nations do nothing about….
    Some leadership, I guarantee…!!!

  • Dispozadaburka

    Twoda-roooooooooooo!

  • mrbean

    Although it’s been reported that Jong Il’s son, Kim Jong Un, is his fatther's successor, Former UN Ambassador Bolton doubts that the all factions of the military will go along with that, saying, “I think the greatest risk at the moment is of state collapse. You know this is not a long-established European monarchy where the son takes office sort of automatically. I think it’s very possible that the military, who hold the real power in North Korea, are simply not going to accept this 28 year old playboy newly minted 4-star general as the inevitable successor

  • Steve Chavez

    BREAKING NEWS! "Kim had a sudden heart attack when he was thumbing through Lindsay Lohan's Playboy layout. His last dying words were 'Damn she ugly!'"

  • Steve Chavez

    My former Governor, Bill Richardson, was on CNN a few times yesterday concerning North Korea but didn't the Hosts know that Richardson has a Herman Cain/John Edwards scandal of his own and if they did know, why didn't they ask him about it since they've never held back on asking Cain???

    Since the media is silent on this scandal that is getting more interesting by the day, yesterday's news is that he had an affair DURING his 2008 Presidential campaign with a woman who had a $12 an hour job. He then got her a $65,000 job but then she got a DWI and was fired. She went to Richardson and his aides and wanted help which she didn't get. She then threatened to go the media. RICHARDSON THEN HAD $250,000, FROM A MEXICAN BANK, transferred to her account. Her husband found out and divorced her. A GRAND JURY is now questioning several of Richardson's inner circle and some have already be given immunity. it is also reported that he held a fundraiser with the help of a his aide, A SENATOR TOM UDALL RELATIVE! Did Udall know of this fundraiser?

    Why didn't Wolf Blitzer ask him about this? The Santa Fe New Mexican, which sends out their goon squad when the newly elected Republican Gov. sneezes and they are investigating this story. My suspicion is that their owners, who were beholden to Richardson, are also in on this!!!

    • Fred Dawes

      bill is a pig.

      • johnnywoods

        As all Democraps are.

    • mlcblog

      he gets a free pass because he is one of them…

  • BLJ

    Maybe our Dear Leader can take over there. We still owe those bastards for the USS Pueblo as well as the numerous attacks (never reported in the media) that have been happening on the DMZ since the armistice (the war has never really ended).

    • Fred Dawes

      I can only hope that the WAR STARTS UP SO THE SON CAN BE SHOT

    • johnnywoods

      I hope our "dear leader" does not get any ideas about shooting his opponents in the head for "bad thoughts". Wow! What a POS!

  • Ben

    Russians in their sacred grieve of Stalin-idol`s death where natural as the symbol of their eternal spiritual immobility,but seing the hard intellectual faces of North- Korean chiefs twisted with the deep greive is something irrational when we compare it with the vivid moveble faces of the South Koreans.The devilish human mutability that contradict all solemn 1000 years silliness and is in line with these moveble humanity`s out of Africa spirit

  • Fred Dawes

    A fat pig monkey is dead that mades me fell good. now if the real Koreans would attack I would feel great. We can only hope that the son is shot by some real human being that wants a end to evil.

  • Questions

    Where is Amy Poehler now that we really need her?

  • Stuart Parsons

    I have been crying non-stop since I heard the sad news. Oh life is just not worth living now he has left us. Our only consolation is knowing he is with his friends Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin, Pol Pot and Muhammad

  • Terry

    This cockroach has starved his own people, is the world standard in despotic and has exported nuclear terrorism to other likeminded states. So, where has the left been in demonstrating against North Korea. Where has the left been in condeming North Korea? Where has the left been in boycotting North Korea?

    I reckon the left has been in the Middle East, condemning Israel for building homes for Jews on Jewish land in Judea and Samaria. Why waste time on a scumbag like kim when you can be using it on peaceful Jews seeking to live a peaceful life in their own land?

    The western left can't be taken seriously. It ignores North Korea, Zimbabwe and Iran. It appoplexes over a few Jews building homes on land illegally claimed by a pretend people invented to commit genocide on Jews. Which makes the left as morally robust as the late unlamented kim.

    • BS77

      I am troubled, yet fascinated by the outpouring of forced grief and crying…seeing the hysterical weeping and wailing of North Korea's women that goes on and on and on and on……I am trying to understand how these people are so thoroughly manipulated to behave in this manner. They are brainwashed to deep levels of conformism and groveling submissiveness. This is very disturbing to witness. The other thing is the Monarchistic succession….grandfather Kim, son Kim, grandson Kim…..it's too bizarre for words.

  • Amused

    Sfick up where the sun don't shine you sophomoric imbecile . Neither the left nor right has done anything worthy of mention ,regarding N.K. ,Zimbabwe , or Iran . But i guess that's hard for you to see with your head so far up your butt .

    • Terry

      What a reasoned and well thought out response (not)!! Never mind that you missed the point entirely. I shan't bother to enlighten you though. You wouldn't understand reasoned debate because it appears to to be incompatable with unfortunate anal fixation. Suffice to say I stand by what I say above.

    • WilliamJamesWard

      Don't feel bad Terry, it is a right of passage to be Abused by Amused, kind of_his way of letting you know he likes you. Alas little leader is gone (maybe)_could be a fake deal. This brings me to one of my new theories about_Little Leader, I have entertained the idea that Amused was one of his many_pen names in cyber space and actually Amused is LL who vents on this site._If I am wrong well maybe our pal Amused will one day release his secret to_being a master of bitter scorn which to him is a form of happy heraldry._Amused you are being bad bad bad bad ………………William

  • mlcblog

    Do you have to be so grammar-school gross? probably, but I think you can do better.

  • myohmy

    Bury this piece of human excrement in a garbage can with no lid and place it under a public outhouse so the people can pay tribute him daily.

  • LibertyLover

    Yippeeeeeeeeee! Kim Jong-Ill is now Kim Jong-Dead!

  • snorbak

    To quote Monty Python; "…& there was much rejoicing…"

  • Haylo

    Give America time under BO and we will be just like North Korea. Started already guys…wake up!!! Wake up!! For God's sake America wake up!!

  • Ann

    MAY HIS STAY IN HELL BE WHAT HE EXPECTED — MAY HE GET WHAT HE GAVE OUT!!!

  • BS77

    Yes, exactly like 1984 or Animal Farm…..it is amazing how many years this oppressive, vile regime has maintained itself….I thought Korea would have re united by now.

  • mlcblog

    Yes, and I think people here are a little flip with their comments…Being under tyrannical control does not happen easily, nor does coming out of it. It is hard for me to blame the victims or to be hard-hearted and laugh about what dolts they are.

    I wish we could eradicate him/ his work but alas! another just like or similar to him is likely to rise up to take his place.

    I agree that we are being warned and need to take note. How did they get there? it seems Genghis Khan was their original oppressor. Enough brutality and people succumb as powerless victims. We do not seem to know what we have here in America, where we are still able to think for ourselves, or at least we were until recently. I despair that our schools along with the media are indeed succeeding in erasing our freedom and replacing it with ignorance about how our economy runs.

    There may still be time, and I for one am doing everything I can to spread the message of freedom.