The improbable secret Kim conspiracy to reunify Korea
Everybody loves a good secret conspiracy theory. Here's mine for North Korea. Of course, it is probably not true. But is it impossible?
Kim Jong-Un is a tyrant, perhaps the last of his kind, and living in the new modern era. With this Swiss education, unfettered access to the internet and a love of foreign media, what sort of mindset might he hold? We don't know a lot.
If you, or I, or most people, found themselves as complete dictator of North Korea, I would hope we would want to do the moral thing -- abdicate the dictatorship, reunify under the democratic government of the Republic of (South) Korea and cut a sweet deal for a dictator's exile.
KJU has worked to build up that cult of personality for himself, sometimes in brutal ways. But even so, the military could still take him out and install one of his brothers or his uncle Kim Pyong-il as figurehead leader in a coup d'etat.
The greatest threat in a coup was his brother Kim Jong-nam, who had originally been tapped as future great leader until he fell out of favour. In 2017, KJN was assassinated with VX nerve agent in Malaysia.
Still alive is his older brother Kim Jong-chul. who was also passed over for the chance to be dear leader. KJC is not in power and is known to travel outside Korea. KJU grew up not expecting to be leader, and it was not until 2009, when he was around 26 that KJU realized he would rule.
What if KJU has been "corrupted" by those western influences and doesn't want to continue the tyranny his father and grandfather built? What if he sees that he should do the right thing when the time is right?
Initially, he would not have much choice. The military holds much of the power, and they seem to like it. If he looked like he was going to bring all that down, they would probably move to stop him. The main thing standing in their way would be the huge cult of personality around the Kim family. This might explain the murder of his oldest half-brother. His uncle, who was executed, was not in the Kim family by blood so that was a simple consolidation of power, though he also killed his aunt, reportedly. And indeed, his trail of executions is probably too bloody to support this theory.
In this conspiracy theory, Kim has taken advantage of a surprise opportunity -- Trump. Trump holds great power but is easily manipulated if given glory for himself. The idea of a Nobel Prize and the accomplishment of peace in Korea are appealing to Trump. Trump's own strategy -- to be unpredictable and thus scary -- is good news for Kim if he wants to frighten his own generals. The threat of Trump could be a trigger to explain why Kim has to do drastic things.
At all times, Kim must keep up the appearance of the cruel dictator. He must make it look hard, make it look to his generals that he is the son of his father, a tool to keep them in the good life. Until it is too late, until he has enough power that they can't stop him. So for now, he lives like his father and grandfather, doing unspeakable things. It's not too hard, it is what he grew up with.
His other big issue is China. He needs China to be on his side. China might not want reunification either. But he might convince them of it if he can deliver one thing they really want -- the removal of US military presence from the Korean peninsula. And he can probably convince Trump to do that if he makes it a condition of the whole deal. Trump gets that nice Nobel prize. China gets the USA off its border. The Republic of Korea (South Korea) takes a big hit absorbing North Korea. Tons of aid flows in to help. To arrange this, he would need to make a trip to Beijing to see Xi.
South Korea has no choice. It is article 3 of their constitution that they must do all they can for reunification. In fact, both countries declare they are the government of the entire peninsula. All North Koreans are citizens of the Republic of Korea, they just aren't allowed to practice their rights. This is already politically required.
So Kim retires, rich, to a villa. The North Korean people are taken out of bondage and brought to economic prosperity, as were the East Germans. Kim's a hero to many, maybe he even gets the peace prize as well. Maybe if people come to understand what he did he's forgiven the atrocities and gets to come home. You never know.
This is a conspiracy theory. It's almost surely not true. But it's nice to dream. I think if it were true, Kim would be a bit less harsh on the punishment of families, the labour camps, the ruthlessness. It's a bit too much to be an act. And the more common interpretation -- that he just wants to be dictator of a much richer country thanks to foreign aid -- is more likely to be true.
It is at least good to see things improving. North Korea is one of the great tragedies of the world. It exists only because of terrible timing. At the end of the war in Europe, it was agreed the Soviet Union would enter the war in Asia 90 days later. On August 9, 1945 -- hours before the bombing of Nagasaki. The war in Asia was already won but the Soviets snuck in under the wire and refused to stop, pushing all the way to Korea. There, they installed one of their acolytes who had been studying communist power structures in Moscow -- a man named Kim Il-Sung. The rest was terrible history. It is time to see it undone.