Getting hyped about North Korea saber rattling in spring is tantamount to being floored about the flowers budding in the backyard. It is a rite of the season. Many of the nation’s goofy ritualistic observances happen around now. It is a military history. It is a military economy. No one bothered to declare an official peace between the North and the South when we high-tailed it out of there 60 years ago, so it’s a thing. Now, suddenly, it’s a big thing, mainly because there’s a new nut in charge. Big deal. New nut, young nut, means he has to 1) Keep the military from sniffing weakness, coup d’état-ing him into small pieces, and dumping what’s left into the East China Sea or 2) Make the citizenry forget it’s starving to death. But, really, it’s same-old/same-old.
It’s important for tyrannical regimes to wake up the echoes when the seasons turn. The dead tend to stank when the temperatures nip above freezing. Oh, the streets are filled with dead. This is North Korea’s chief manufacturing quotient, specifically since its Central Military Commission finds refurbished Soviet tanks and 1979-era missiles to be just fine. The ‘80s never die in North Korea, it gets recycled like Daryl Hall. This kind of thing is important to imperial lunatic Kim Jong Un, whose humorously non-threatening chubby cuteness never ceases. He’s the soft imp in the schoolyard that has to have the biggest mouth, because if someone begins to tease him, he’s done.
Un was a big fan of Hall & Oates when he was tending to his studies as a boy in Switzerland near a town called Bern, where summer comes but six weeks a year and the temperature barely touches the mid-70s; an excellent place to preserve street corpses.
Un never missed many meals (obviously) and joyfully learned much of what matters from Western custom; cheeseburgers, basketball, masturbation and acting tough. Much of this was learned outside the classroom, through the bootleg Hollywood films his father sent him in those care packages with the annotated Mein Kampf and a stained Calvin & Hobbes t-shirt.
Kim Jong Il, the previous lunatic, was very fond of Hollywood and its most precious commodity; bullshit. His was a life bloated with bullshit—speaking it, acting it, performing it. Un learned well. His posed photographs gripping binoculars are right out of Patton, as is his strategic pointing maneuvers. He learned the presidential wave from Saddam Hussein, whom the North Koreans affectionately called gaegogi, which means dog meat.
Dog meat is the chief delicacy in Korea, but for North Koreans it is but a dream. Most eat dirt or bug feces, when they’re not eating each other. Cannibalism is up in North Korea. There is talk now among government officials to strike its criminal stigma and begin to offer instructional films on how to prepare human entrails over a barrel fire. Yes, they still use actual film there, digital devices are banned and cannot be eaten, so are ignored by 99.6 percent of the populace. This may all be horrid and morally reprehensible to an over-fed American, but to the North Korean it is simply known as the weekend.
But nicknames and cannibalism aside, Un learned another key lesson from Hussein; it’s best to keep telling everyone that you have an impressive cadre of weapons, whether you do or not. Keeps the insiders happy (frightened) and makes the outsiders—for Hussein, Iran, for Un, South Korea, Japan, China, etc.—take notice (get pissed). No one with half a brain after a few months thought Saddam Hussein had more than a matchbox set under his fancy tents and nobody outside of Pyongyang believes the country has much more than antiquated pop guns. This is a show; lights, camera, in-action!
Not even China believes a word Un says, just as they placated his dad’s raving. It’s all part of the plan to keep North Korea appearing relevant, so it can provide a buffer. No one on the mainland needs Western nonsense knocking on the door. Plus, it’s an easy way to sell weapons to terrorists without upsetting the U.S., which it needs to bankroll and buy all of its crap.
And that brings us to another pressing anniversary; it’s been one year since North Korea could barely get a missile off the ground and became the laughing stock of Asia. This cannot stand. Kim Jong Un is using all that Hollywood dog meat to get his dander up and keep all the propagandized worship flowing—and keep the neighbors out of the living room.
As for South Korea, literally 300 feet of living room separates the two warring nations in the DMZ, an ad hoc demilitarized zone where enlisted geeks stare at each other for hours a day. Created when Douglas MacArthur went sideways and Truman got bored, this Cold War relic is a testament to the continuously spectacular stupidity displayed by the human animal. The room has a line running down the middle like something out of I Love Lucy. Holy shit, did I just reference I Love Lucy? There must have been some sitcom in the last 60 years that had two warring parties divide the goddamn room up.
Shit, I am old.
But not as old as this North Korea/South Korea crap. It is very old; a lot older than a good many people reading this. And somehow, with all the spectacular uninterrupted stupidity and the dog meat and the generations of fancy lunatics, it’s all still there. A place for men to be men and phonies to pretend there’s something left to fight for.
Springtime for North Korea.
Has a nice ring to it.
Should be a musical. Call Mel Brooks.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of the Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Midnight for Cinderella”