Friday, October 1, 2010

Is the real Kim Jong-il dead, and his role being played by a double?
Is the real Kim Jong-il dead, and his role being played by a double?
Jeremy Warner
September 21st, 2010

North Korea’s ruling party is to hold a conference next week to anoint Kim Jong-un, the twenty something son of the present leader, Kim Jong il, the next head of state. There won’t be any discussion of alternatives; it’s already a forgone conclusion.

Yet the occasion does raise the question of whether the original “Dear Leader” is still alive at all, or whether it is actually his double, acting as a puppet head of the state for the army, who has been sitting in the driving seat all these years.

At the World Economic Forum’s “summer Davos”, held in the Chinese city of Tianjin last week, Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Waseda University in Japan and a self proclaimed “expert” on North Korea, insisted that the present Kim Jong il is in fact a double. There is no question of it, he says, for he has irrefutable proof of the fact.

It’s not just that there has been no recent photograph of the dear leader; computer analysis of his voice shows the present Kim Jong not to be the same man as the one of some years ago. “I’m willing to accept that his son is about to become leader, but who exactly is he succeeding?”, asked Professor Shigemura.

In the same discussion, Moon Chung-In, a professor of political science at Yonsei University, Republic of Korea, dismissed this claim as utter tosh. He’d met Kim Jong il on several occassions, and there was no question but that he was the same man on each of them. However, Professor Chung-il accepted that who ever the leader really was, it was largely academic, since he was in effect only the puppet of the military.

The same would be true of Kim Jong un (oh do keep up!), a bit of a waster by all accounts who has never done a serious job in his life. Could his succession nevertheless mark a thaw in relations with the West and South Korea? Is it even possible that in return for the removal of sanctions he could do a Colonel Gaddafi, come in from the cold and give up on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions?

Don’t hold your breath. Kim Jong il, or his double, has spent quite a bit of time in Beijing recently discussing the succession with his Chinese allies. We can only assume the Chinese leadership has blessed the handover. As I say, it seems unlikely North Korea will change its attitude to the outside world anytime soon, but the fact that there could be a discussion of the type I’ve just reported, held openly on Chinese soil, with the couple of Chinese profs who sat in on it willing to admit that at some stage reunification with South Korea was perfectly possible, just goes to demonstrate how rapidly China is changing, and ulitmately it will be China that determines North Korea’s future.

The G20 is due to meet in South Korea later this year. There’s been some speculation it might provide the occassion for some fresh military muscle flexing by North Korea, just to demonstrate that old hostilities remain alive and well. This seems almost inconceivable. North Korea is not going to launch any kind of military strike almost anywhere let alone on South Korea while Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier and basically the only thing that stands between the Kim Jong dynasty and its obliteration, is dining on sea food with his international counterparts in the south.

I guess the Chinese leadership knows for sure whether Kim Jong is a double, but does it really matter?

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