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[Op-Ed] Kim Jong Il`s `Corny` Comment

Posted February. 03, 2010 08:19,   


When the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Cuban President Fidel Castro held an emergency meeting in Pyongyang. They agreed on the severity of the situation but offered different solutions. Kim said, “The communist regime can be maintained if military power and the people’s ideology are strengthened. By contrast, Castro said, “We should acknowledge the failure of the socialist economy and carry out reform to introduce a market economy.” They agreed to meet 20 years later to see who was right. In 2008, Kim had to visit Castro to admit defeat.

This story is part of the novel “When Kim Jong Il and Castro Face an Economic Crisis” by Dong-A Ilbo reporter and North Korea expert Shin Seok-ho. Shin compared the economic recovery efforts of North Korea and Cuba based on his visits to both countries. Since Castro took control of Cuba through a communist revolution in 1959, the country has faced U.S. sanctions over the past five decades with devastating effects on its economy. Since the 1990s, however, the island country has pushed economic recovery with the help of Venezuela and China. This is a stark contrast to North Korea, where millions starved to death due to the mass famines of the mid-1990s and many people today go hungry.

In 1994, Castro, then 67, told a European magazine in an interview, “After I died, I’ll go to hell and meet Marx, Engels and Lenin. My suffering in hell will pale in comparison with the pain I’ve had pursuing something that cannot be realized.” On the countless Cuban refugees going to the U.S. to eke out a living, he surprised the world by saying, “It’s natural for people in poor countries to go to rich countries.” Castro made the comments on the 35th anniversary of the Cuban revolution.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official daily of the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party, recently quoted its leader Kim as saying, “What is most heartbreaking is to see my people eat corn at mealtime.” He has not told the truth yet, however. North Koreans will not starve to death if they can eat corn heartily. Kim, 67, also reportedly said, “My task now is to help the people eat boiled rice, bread and noodles heartily.” If he cares for his people as much as Castro cares for Cubans, no North Korean will go hungry.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)