Kim Jong Un’s absence: coup or cooped up?

13 10 2014

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????(By Belinda Cranston, ANU, 10 OCT 2014) Why hasn’t Kim Jong Un been seen for 37 days? All sorts of conspiracy theories abound. Are ankle problems the reason the North Korean leader is lying low, as reported by the hermit kingdom’s officials? Or is something more sinister at stake, like a coup?

It was hoped that all would be revealed on Friday, when celebrations marking the 69th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s ruling party begin in Pyongyang.

The occasion would normally see the supreme leader on the podium of Kim Il-Sung Square, greeting a parade of workers and peasants passing by. But the North Korean leader has apparently missed this key political event.

Speaking before the event, North Korea expert Dr Leonid Petrov, from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, said, “it will probably look more suspicious than ever if he doesn’t appear.”

Footage of Kim in North Korean media a couple of months ago showed the North Korean dictator limping.

At an occasion to mark the 61st anniversary of the end of the Korean War, on 27 July, he was unusually subdued, fuelling rumours he had suffered a stroke.

“If he did survive a minor stroke, maybe his left side is a bit affected by that,” Petrov said.

Kim is also said to have suffered diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

When he failed to show on 9 September for National Day commemorations, the rumour mill went into overdrive.

If an injury required a major operation, it was possible Kim was recovering in a wheel chair, a look he would not want to sport for fear of being perceived as weak, Petrov suggested.

It is also possible Kim is afraid of assassination. Late last year he reportedly arranged for his uncle’s execution, because he feared he was disloyal to the North Korean regime.

This year’s release of the American film, The Interview, a comedy about journalists on an undercover mission to assassinate Kim, has further fuelled rumours Kim fears for his life.

Petrov isn’t convinced, noting Kim’s many public appearances in the first part of 2014.

In early January, visiting former-US basketball star Dennis Rodman sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Kim, publicly cementing the unusual friendship between the two.

But the North Korean leader didn’t show during Rodman’s third visit to North Korea.

“That shows that he is getting a bit cautious about his meetings and public appearances,” Petrov added.

Without Kim or his family in power, the North Korean regime would probably struggle.

“The system would need to find some sort of figure head to replace him,” Petrov said.

His sister Kim Yo-jong is rumoured to be now running the show, but Petrov isn’t convinced she is, given North Korea’s perception of women.

“Women are not supposed to occupy the central position in power politics,” he said.

What of other rumours, like Kim being under house arrest or even dead?

Until Kim makes an appearance soon, Petrov believes the most likely scenario is that the North Korean dictator is unwell.

“Maybe incapacitated. Yes, it is possible, he may have had a stroke and is in bad shape.”

This article is from the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific





Inside the world’s weirdest bromance between Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman

13 01 2014

KJU_Rodman(News.com.au 08 January 2014) He may be in the country to celebrate his dictator best mate’s birthday today, but Dennis Rodman is making headlines for entirely different reasons.

The former NBA star, currently in the isolated state to celebrate Kim Jung-un’s birthday as part of a basketball tour, lost it during an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

The eccentric Rodman lashed out at the CNN anchorman who quizzed him about visiting North Korea so soon after the execution of Kim’s uncle.

When quizzed further about the status of detained US citizen Kenneth Bae, Rodman really let loose, struggling to contain his anger:
“I don’t give a rat’s a*** what the hell you think,” he said.
“Look at the guys right here.
“You are the guy behind the mic…and we are the guys here doing our thing.”

Rodman has been protective of his relationship with Kim after striking up a friendship since meeting a year ago.
But their relationship isn’t as bizarre as the rest of the world might think.

According to one expert, the pair have a mutually beneficial relationship with Kim using Rodman as a PR weapon against the west and the American using his new found friendship to become a celebrity once again.

KIM JONG-UN UNCLE’S IDENTITY ERASED

Dr Leonid Petrov, researcher at Australian National University’s School of Culture, History and Language, told news.com.au while North Korea seems a strange country, its leader’s friendship with a former sports star was far from odd.

Dr Petrov said the dictator’s attraction to someone like Rodman wasn’t unusual when you considered Kim’s lifelong obsession with sports and basketball in particular. Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, is a keen basketball fan and loves the Chicago Bulls. Rodman played a key role in winning three NBA titles for the Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

WHY RODMAN?

According to Dr Petrov, Rodman helped Kim show his people and the rest of the world the Supreme Leader had the human touch and that a friendship with a basketball icon would be a dream come true for him. “Kim has always had a strong interest in sport from a very young age and Rodman is an idol to him,” he said.

Dr Petrov added that with North Korea being isolated from the west, Kim “feels he needs some form of appreciation from the world” and such a relationship brought some normality to the country and its people. “Both (men) want the attention, Kim gets attention from the western media and so does Rodman” Dr Petrov said.

HOW THEY MET

Rodman first struck up a bond with the Supreme Leader in February last year when he visited the country for what was coined a “basketball diplomacy mission” where he attended a mixed-match basketball game with VICE Magazine . Kim Jong-un reportedly declared Rodman, known as “The Worm”, a “friend for life” and the sportsman is one of the few Westerners to have met him.

Upon visiting Kim’s private island, Rodman declared, “It’s like Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.”

WHY IS HE BACK IN NORTH KOREA?

The ex-Chicago Bulls player is leading a team including retired NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker for a celebratory exhibition game against North Korea in honour of Kim’s 31st birthday.

WHY THE RELATIONSHIP MATTERS

Dr Petrov said while Rodman had clearly failed when it came to bringing up human rights abuses in the rogue state, at least he was extending the hand of friendship in the spirit of reconciliation.

One positive aspect of Rodman’s visit was it did open up some diplomacy with the world and at least allowed North Koreans insight into the west and an opportunity to learn more about the world.

RODMAN NEEDS TO RECONSIDER POSITION

However Dr Petrov said the former NBA star had missed an opportunity to talk to his friend about human rights, its collapsed economy and an illicit drug and black market trade.

Speaking from Beijing Airport ahead of the visit, Rodman said he hoped the match could “open the doors” to “talk about certain things” and said he wasn’t there for a political debate. “But I am not going to sit there and go, ‘Hey guy, you are doing the wrong thing. That is not the right way to do it.’ He is my friend first … and I love him,” Rodman said.

According to Dr Petrov, it’s not only a missed opportunity to help the people of North Korea but loses him respect with the west.

WHY THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

Dr Petrov maintained the visit did have some positive aspects such as developing some form of friendship with the isolated state. “If we want North Korea to change we need to engage them somehow,” he said. “At least his visit is better than not doing nothing at all.”

See the full text of the article here…





Dennis Rodman Bids Farewell to “Great Leader” Kim Jong Un

2 03 2013

KJU_Dennis Rodman_rodong shinmun(NKnews.org March 1, 2013) U.S. delegation attract huge media interest both in North Korea and abroad

Former basketball legend Dennis Rodman left North Korea today, calling the Kim family “great leaders” as he said goodbye to journalists at Pyongyang’s Sunan Airport.

In remarks about his time spent with Kim Jong Un, Rodman said, “He’s proud, his country likes him – not like him, love him, love him…[And] guess what, his grandfather, and his father were great leaders, and he’s such a proud man.”  He further added, “Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”

Yesterday, Rodman broke world news by becoming the first high profile American visitor to meet North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un. The unlikely pair watched a basketball game between the visiting U.S. delegation and an unspecified local team. Sitting next to Kim Jong Un, North Korean state media outlet described their initial encounter, “Dennis Rodman went up to the auditorium to bow to Kim Jong Un….Warmly welcoming him, Kim Jong Un let him sit next to him.”

Wearing dark glasses and drinking a can of Coca Cola, Rodman apparently chatted without translators to Kim Jong Un throughout the game. The match ended in a 110-110 draw, with 12 DPRK players and four players from the U.S. team Harlem Globetrotters divided into two teams.  Rodman said afterwards that “although relations between the two countries are regrettable, personally I am a friend of Marshal Kim Jong Un and the DPRK people.”

Following the game, North Korean state media outlet KCNA reported that the group went for a dinner with Kim Jong Un, who expressed his “expectation that [further] such sports exchange would be activated, contributing to promoting mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries”. A VICE Media staff member at the dinner Tweeted last night, “Um… so Kim Jong Un just got the #VICEonHBO crew wasted… no really, that happened.”

Spending five days in North Korea, Rodman’s delegation also took in a number of recently built tourist sites. KCNA reported that the group “spent a good time watching dolphins dancing to the tune of cheerful music, jumping in group, spinning rings, jumping into the air and shaking hands with people.”

Reacting to the news, North Korea expert Leonid Petrov today told NK NEWS,

“This week Kim Jong-Un has really surprised the world. Like a talented film director he changes the pace of the unfolding drama with new turns in the plot. The December rocket launch was overshadowed by the visit of Google’s CEO. The February nuclear test suddenly looked boring when an ex-NBA star and the Supreme Leader set together to cheer the basketball exhibition. Will the next visitor to Pyongyang be a game-changer?”

In stark contrast to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s January trip to North Korea, the Rodman delegation was covered in close detail by North Korean media. Making front page news in today’s edition of Rodong Sinmun (North Korea’s main newspaper), DPRK TV and radio news bulletins all led with the story both last night and this morning.  Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, told Yonhap News today, “North Korea is likely to show off an image of openness about Kim Jong-un by displaying Rodman’s visit at home and overseas.”

A picture released of Rodman’s farewell today showed Kim Jong Un hugging him, with North Korea’s world-famous basketball player Ri Myung Hun clearly visible in the background.  As the only North Korean basketball player that an NBA team was ever interested in, Ri is known to be the world’s tallest basketball player, standing at nearly 8 foot tall.

In an exclusive report for NK NEWS, journalist Nate Thayer yesterday described how the Rodman visit likely came to be.  ”Kim Jong Un and his brother Kim Jong Chol are known to be ardent fans of  American basketball, with Kim Jong Un reported to have had posters of  basketball star Michael Jordan on his wall during his schooldays and his brother, Kim Jong Chol, once photographed in Switzerland wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey with Dennis Rodman’s number on it.

Rodman’s visit comes at a sensitive time for South Korea and the United State’s relationship with North Korea. North Korea tested a nuclear device last month and launched a satellite into orbit, despite widespread international pressure against it. Currently, the UN Security Council is working to try and develop a suitable response to the third nuclear test.