December 1, 2004


Shifting signs in North Korea: Kim Jong Il dials back his personality cult as protest activities pick up. (Jasper Becker, 12/01/04, CS Monitor)

Small signs often portend big changes in closed societies, especially in the secretive court of North Korea's Kim dynasty. Observers are wondering if this is just another mad whim from the palace - like the edicts forbidding women to wear red trousers or to eat hamburgers. Or if, after 3 million deaths from starvation on his watch, Kim Jong Il's star many finally be falling - something suggested by numerous North Korean refugees in recent interviews.

Resident diplomats see nothing unusual in the country but confirm the portraits are gone in a few places. The 62-year-old Kim continues to be addressed with more than a thousand honorifics such as "The Lodestar of the 21st Century" and "Guardian of Our Planet."

Varivodo thinks that Kim Jong Il realizes that foreigners find the personality cult absurd and so has had the portraits taken down at places where foreign delegations are received.

"They want to avoid the negative reactions and stupid questions about the personality cult," he says. "They know foreigners find it odd, but really there has been no other change to the personality cult here."

No one is sure what Kim is up to. The Sunday Times of London says Kim has gone into seclusion, depressed by the reelection of President Bush and the death of his favorite mistress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 1, 2004 12:00 AM

I suspect the generals who actually run things there are planning on phasing him out.

Posted by: carter at December 1, 2004 1:09 AM

What are the odds that "dear leader" has assumed room temp and now sleeps with his ancestors?

Posted by: hil at December 1, 2004 2:13 AM

Isn't it great tho that 58 million Americans voted for the guy whose election wouldn't have sent Kim into depression and seclusion!

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 1, 2004 2:28 AM

The Sunday Times of London says that Kim has gone into seclusion. Isn't just living in North Korea a perpetual seclusion?

Posted by: AllenS at December 1, 2004 4:51 AM

After the current Che phenominon dies out, I'm waiting for jackets and T-shirts with the Dear Leader's photo on it to become the next hot political fashion statement among the clueless left trendies next year.

Posted by: John at December 1, 2004 9:09 AM

Possibly Kim was proving insufficiently puppet-like for the Chinese.

Posted by: pj at December 1, 2004 10:05 AM

He could always move to Canada.

Posted by: genecis at December 1, 2004 11:49 PM