It’s easy to laugh at the dearly departed Dear Leader Kim Jong- il.

Team America helps, as does all that kooky footage set to funky music of those crazy North Koreans marching and dancing. And Jong-il himself, oh how we laughed at his bouffant hairstyle and his shades and his love of Hollywood movies and his looking at things.

But watch our video of the day, it’s not so funny. About two million dying from starvation on his watch, again, not a lot of laughs. And perusing the satellite photos of these death camps that Amnesty released in May may also wipe the smile from your face.

Amnesty estimates that these camps, created 60 years ago, hold at least 200,000 men, women and children.

Forty per cent of these people will die of malnutrition. Inmates, who are used as slave labour, are held without charge or trial and most of them have no idea why they were arrested in the first place. Amnesty found evidence of the use of torture cells, small cubes in which it is impossible to either stand or lie down. Researchers revealed the case of a boy of 13 confined to a cube for eight months. Many camp infractions, including trying to escape, are punished by executions that inmates are forced to watch.

As Misa Han points out in Crikey today, an exile from North Korea, who worked for the North Korean military for eight years, told Korean newspaper NEWS that “… among North Koreans, Kim Jong-un is known for his eccentric personality — more so than Kim Jong-il. To make up for his lack of political experience, the leader is likely to cut off contact with the citizens and the rest of the world.”

Get that? More eccentric than Kim Jong-il. Eccentricity can mean kidnapping filmmakers to make Godzilla-style dedications to socialism, it can, as Rundle puts it today, result in the creation of a “dystopian science-fiction, political fetish object”, and it can produce the death of millions of people.  It can be all of these things at once, which means ridicule shouldn’t get in the way of scrutinising this horrendous dictatorship.

Peter Fray

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