North Korea: Did Gaddafi's Execution Scare Kim Jong-il?

Joo Sung-ha is a North Korean defector-turned-journalist who runs a blog named North Korea RT (Real Talk) [ko]. Mr. Joo was born in North Korea and graduated from Kim Il-sung University, one of top prestigious universities in North Korea. He defected from the country in 1998 and four years later obtained South Korean citizenship. He regularly publishes long detailed posts about his North Korean experience to give a true insight into the hermit kingdom.

This post [ko] is his critique of numerous news reports suggesting that Kim Jong-il, North Korea's dictator, was scared to hear of former Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi's, fall. Beside both being amongst the world's most notoriously brutal dictators, they shared lots of similar traits and it is widely believed that they were friends.

Image of Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il, two of the world's most notorious dictators, Posted in Mr. Joo's blog, used with permission.

Image of Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il, two of the world's most notorious dictators, Posted in Mr. Joo's blog, used with permission.

카다피가 망한 뒤 각 언론사 사설 칼럼을 통해 김정일이 떨 것이라는 분석이 많은데, 저는 ‘No’라고 말하고 싶습니다.김정일이 과연 떨까요? 천만의 말씀입니다. 김정일은 오히려 카다피를 비웃고 있을 가능성이 크죠. 바지 벗어주고 뺨 맞은 바보 같은 놈이라고요. 카다피는 솔직히 나토가 개입해서 죽은 것입니다. 내부 시민혁명으로는 절대 망할 리가 없었죠. 김정일은 북한에서 내부 시민혁명이 일어나기는 리비아보다 백 배 더 힘들고, 일어나면 외국에 알려지기 전에 다 진압해버릴 수 있고(아무리 큰 봉기도 불과 반나절이면 끝)…

무엇보다 가장 중요한 점은 외세가 절대 개입 못한다는 점을 알고 있습니다. 북한엔 핵도 있겠다, 200만의 대군이 있겠다, 중국이 버티고 서주겠다, 석유도 없겠다…누가 북한을 공습할 수 있을까요. 그러니 리비아를 보면서 떨 일이 뭐 있겠습니까. 콧방귀를 뀌고 있겠죠. 다만 김정일도 리비아를 보면서 대비는 하고 있겠죠. 기동타격대를 조직했다던가, 국경 통제를 아주 강하게 한다던가, 중동 소식을 절대 알리지 않는 다던가, 쿠데타 못 일어나게 정치위원 더 강화시킨다던가 하는 것이 대표 사례입니다.

김정일의 가장 큰 불안은 자기가 죽고 김정은이 버틸 수 있을지 여부겠죠. 하지만 설명이 길어져서 더 쓰진 않겠지만요. 저는 지금처럼 노는 한 절대 2년 이상 못 버틴다고 봅니다.

북한 체제가 인위적으로 망할 수 있는 가장 가능성이 큰 방식은 두 가지 정도가 아닐까 봅니다.

하나는 위에서 쓴 것처럼 주민들과 말단 간부들까지 태업하면서 점점 곪아 문드러져 쓰러지는 것이죠. 하지만 시간은 꽤 걸리겠죠. 허울뿐인 정권도 누가 직접 무너뜨리지 않는 한 존속하기 때문입니다. 하지만 허울만 남겨지면 쓰러뜨리기가 훨씬 쉽죠.

둘째는 백성들의 원성이 하늘을 찌른다던가 권력 암투가 심해지면 제2의 안중근, 김재규가 나오면 되겠지요. 박정희 정권이 그리 끝날 줄 불과 하루 전까지 누가 알았겠습니까.

하지만 이 둘 보다 훨씬 더 확실한 것은 김정일은 늙었다. 그러니 죽는다. 언제? 곧….이것이 아니겠습니까.

북한도 이미 카운트다운에 들어간 겁니다.

After the fall of Gaddafi, each media outlet published opinion columns suggesting that Kim Jong-il would be shocked by the news. But that is NOT what I think. Would he be terrified by the news? Not a chance. Actually, Kim would rather mock Gaddafi for ‘putting out and get slapped anyway’ [slang].

To be frank, it is NATO's intervention which drove Gaddafi to his death, not the civilian revolution from inside.

In Kim's case, it is much harder, about a hundred times harder for an internal civil revolution to rise up inside North Korea by its people. Even if they ever did, his loyal army could quell the uprising easily, even before the news spread to the world.

Plus, Kim fully understands that it is not easy for foreign powers to intervene in North Korean internal matters: he’s got nuclear weapons, two million soldiers. And also he is backed by China, and North Korea doesn't have oil… Who would be willing to take a risk attacking North Korea when doing so would likely lead to nothing but trouble? So there is no single reason he would be terrified to hear the updated news on Libya.

Without a doubt, however, Mr. Kim must be busy preparing for the future: He would have started organizing security forces, tightening boarder control, blocking any news from the Middle East and empowering his political camp to lessen any chance of coup d'état, etc.

Kim Jong-il's biggest concern is whether or not his son and soon-to-be-successor, Kim Jung-un, will maintain a grip on power after he dies. I think the chances are bleak. If he [the successor] keeps acting this way, the regime will not last two years.

As far as I foresee, there are two scenarios as to how the North Korean regime might collapse.

First scenario: Ordinary citizen and government officials are so corrupt and have been so negligent in their duties that [if they continue their usual behaviour] the regime becomes rotten to the core and finally collapses. But of course, it will take some time. A rotten government, even if it is in name only, can still exist unless it is physically overthrown by some power.

Second scenario: Nationwide anger from ordinary people may erupt or there may be internal power struggles. Who knows? We may see a North Korean version of Ahn Jung-geun or Kim Jaw-kyu. [Ahn Joong-gun is a Korean activist who assassinated the Prime Minister of Japan, who was about to annex South Korea; Kim Jaw-kyu was a South Korean Army General who killed former South Korean President, Park Chung-hee, who is remembered both as a competent leader and a dictator.]

But the most obvious fact other than these two scenarios is this: Kim Jong-il is old and he will die eventually. The remaining question is ‘when’ and I guess it will be ‘pretty soon’.

The countdown has already begun in North Korea.

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