Almost sounds like a comedy act doesn't it? Like Morcambe and Wise or Zig and Zag ...
Actually I had started off intending to write something serious about North Korea but before I had started I came across a couple of things that made me smile, so I thought I might as well include them before the more serious commentary.
It's odd what people find amusing, which tends to make me very odd as I derive amusement from the silliest things. Like today's South China Morning Post headline that read "Japanese paper mill told to fold". Actually the story that followed was quite serious, but my initial reaction was that some far-sighted Japanese bosses had decided that ready-made origami had a market and they were changing their production lines in their paper mill. (Please don't make me explain origami - it takes away the amusement!)
Perhaps that made my senses a little more alert than usual, because I then came across an article in the Financial Times today (actually, I am really trying to demonstrate that I read more than one newspaper), again a serious piece and well written about the Free Syrian Army wondering why no one from the West will help them stop the massacre after they had helped Libya. Fair point, but given the topic and with absolutely no disrespect intended to the journalist involved I thought it just mildly ironic that it was written by a Professor Slaughter.
Which only goes to confirm a point I stole from someone else a while back and have used before, that I have never really grown up but have just learnt how to behave in public; at least most of the time.
So from Silly to Serious - or is it?
In December 2010 at an Economist function in Hong Kong, (The World in 2011), I had "predicted" the death of Kim Jong Il. An event that somewhat scarily came true in December 2011. I went on to say in 2010, and indeed have since repeated it, that I thought the young, apparently uneducated and obviously pictorially overweight Junior Leader or Dear Succesor would be gobbled up by the generals in no time at all.
If I have to eat my words - so be it, but recent events do seem to be proving me wrong. I must say that the "ousting" of General Ri Yong Ho suggests to this unlearned watcher that something else is going on in the background. The Young 'Un appears to be behaving in a populist (was it ever thus), but somewhat naively "man of the people" role. Appealing to the younger generation, and now being seen in public with a young wife. But to counter that, North Korea is still belligerent in the case of the South.
I am an old cynic, and take nothing at face value until I can establish a degree of certainty, which is hard to do out of the Hermit Kingdom. But firstly, I have to believe at present that someone else is pulling the strings. If everything we have heard so far about the young Kim's intelligence is true, then surely he could not have masterminded the changes that have happened. And who is behind the popular "street level", sort of Disney-like image - Kim's idea? If it is then we have all been misled about his intelligence, not to say cunning.
If there is a puppet master involved, how did he (or she?) become so powerful to have outflanked the General? Is there a greater "plot" involved, designed to make Kim the more acceptable face of a despotic regime, so he can eventually emerge blinking into the sunlight and join at least some of the rest of the world? If so, that's a high risk strategy, but it might prevent the Kim family being murdered for the sins of their ancestors for having kept the North Koreans bottled up in poverty, starvation and misinformation for the last 60 years. Or is the master planner even stronger and bolder than this, planning for Kim to be all sweetness to the outside world, saying a few encouraging words to the world at large, and allowing more aid to be provided in return for a genuine and commensurate reduction in war-mongering, and for him to then leave the country with his family, with a reasonable chance of protection and thus save his skin?
The multi million dollar question - who would we get then?
Silly, or Serious? I wish I knew, but the removal of one more dangerous dictator can surely only be a good thing.