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Responses to the Death of North Korean Dictator, Kim Jong-il

North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il, died on December 17, 2011, from a heart attack. North Korean state television has shown North Koreans mourning and sobbing hard at the news.

There are looming concerns that the death of Kim Jong-il could destabilize the Korean peninsula; the country's military has reportedly conducted short-range missile tests. Unsurprisingly, the South Korean Twittersphere has lit up with numerous responses to the news. The reactions vary from criticism of the South Korean government's poor risk management, and public complaints about the media who used to brag that they had classified information on North Korea, to careful predictions on the future of Korean peninsula.

South Korean Twitter influencers have posted numerous messages about the news. Reporter Go Jae-Yeol (@dogsul), who has 150,000 followers, tweeted [ko]:

우리 정부와 국정원이 김정일 사망을 모르고 있었던 것은 기정사실이고, 관건은 김정일 사망을 CIA나 미국은 알고 있었나 하는 점이다. 알고도 우리 정부에 알려주지 않은 것인지. 그들도 몰랐다면, 이것은 북한 내부가 고의로 지체했다는 것인데.

It is pretty obvious that our government and intelligence service had no idea of Kim Jong-il's death (till North Korea announced it). What matters here is whether CIA or the United States knew about  this. I was wondering – did they choose not to tell our government, or did they also have no clue? In the latter case, it means the North Korea deliberately delayed the news.

Mr.Go also tweeted [ko]:

김정일 사망이 12월17일(토요일) 오전 8시30분이었는데… 발표를 오늘 한다? 사망 시점과 발표 시점 사이에 무수히 많은 일들이 벌어진 모양이네요. 장례식장 서열을 보면 그 결과를 알 수 있겠군요. 흠…

The time of Kim Jong-il's death was 8:30 AM on December 17 (Saturday), but the announcement was made today? This means that lots of things have happened between the time of death and the time of the announcement. We shall see the result of Kim's death from the ranking of his funeral..

Best-selling author and one of South Korea's top 3 most influential Twitter users, with 1.1 million followers, Lee Oi-soo (@oisoo) tweeted [ko]:

북한 김정일 국방위원장 사망을 계기로 살을 에는 추위 속에서 전군이 비상사태에 돌입했습니다. 군인들은 고난이 배가될 수밖에 없습니다. 접경지역인 화천경제도 급격히 얼어붙겠지요. 하지만 온 국민이 지혜롭게 한 해를 마무리할 수 있기를 빕니다.

All the military has entered a state of emergency in this bone-chilling weather. The sufferings of our military people would be doubled. (This news would) chill Hwa-chun's economy (Hwa-chun is a border region). Hope all South Korean people to wrap up the year well.

Another bestselling writer Gong Jee-young (@congjee) tweeted [ko]:

죽고나서도 바뀔 가능성이 없는 체제는 그 자체로 이미 지옥이다. RT @GoEuntae: 죽어야 물러나는 독재자란 얼마나 끔찍한 체제인가.

How awful is the system that has no chance of a change even after the leader has died – it is truly hell. RT @GoEuntae: How awful is the system serving a dictator who steps down only after he is dead.

Many South Koreans are still grumbling about the government's slow response and its lack of preparation. Bak Chan-hong (@mindgood) commented [ko] on a link to one citizen media report:

MB, 대북라인 절단으로 김정일 사망 사흘간 몰라…“북한중앙방송 상복입고 나오자 경악” j.mp/v6vqE6 아찔한 일입니다.

The government had not known about Kim Jong-il's death for three days due to the communication cut-off between the North Korea. When they saw North Korean Central television's anchor in a black (funeral) outfit, they gasped… This is such a nerve-racking situation.

Ricky (@NextBlade) reported [ko] via twitter that some people from the military were not at all ready for such an emergency:

현재 한 골프장에 헬기뜨고 난리도 아니란다. 알고 봤더니 평일 한가하게 골프치던 군 장성들 모셔가는 헬기란다. 이틀이 지나도록 아무것도 몰랐다는 증거… 천문학적인 군비는 대체 어디로 가는걸까.

I heard that a helicopter appeared above a golf course, creating such a fuss. The truth was that the helicopter went there to escort some high-ranking military personnel who leisurely enjoyed playing golf in the week days. This gives an idea that they had no clue what happened these last two days. What happened to the astronomical amount of (government) budget spent on the military?

@52c criticized [ko] the mainstream media who used to boast that they had inside information about North Korea. These media have denounced the public protest as a commotion incited by “pro-North Korean leftists”.

남한에서 촛불집회가 일어나도록 북한에서 조종했다는, 그 엄청난 비밀을 알아 냈던 조중동의 북한 소식통들은.. 김정일이 사망한 건 전혀 몰랐구나.. 소식통 좋아하시네..

The Chosun, Joongang and Donga newspapers [note: these three are the South Korea's most largest, powerful newspapers] – they used to claim that “according to their source”, North Korea has masterminded South Korea's candle-lights protests. These media, who allegedly have access to the highly classified information by their “North Korean source”, had no clue on Kim Jong-il's death? What the hell happened to their “source”?

While North Korea has entered a national mourning period which will continue till Dec 29 [ko], some South Korean media came under fire for misusing a certain term in their news reports. Some media have used an honorific term reserved for highly-respected figure in describing Kim Jong-il. Jay H. Lim (@Narciman) tweeted [ko]:

김정일 국방위원장의 사망에 대해서 ‘서거'라는 표현은 왠지 어색합니다. 북한 주민들에게나 대한민국 국민들에게나 그는 ‘서거'라는 높임말이 어울리는 인물이 아닙니다. 그냥 ‘사망'이라고 표현하면 좋겠습니다…

Using the word “Seo-geo” [note: extremely formal word for “deceased”] on Kim Jong-il's death felt so awkward. To South Korean citizen or even to (some) North Korean people, he is not the one worthy of this honorific terms. Just say he has “passed away”.

But still, people asked the government to be extra careful and sensitive in responding to Kim's death. Yu Chang-seon(@changseon) tweeted [ko]:

북한은 지금 상중이다. 거기다 대고 ‘적의 도발시 응징’ 운운하는 것은 예의가 아니다. 자신들이 상을 당해 슬퍼할때상대가 어떠했는지는 두고두고 기억에 남게되어있다. 정부는 지혜롭게 대처해야 한다.

North Korea is in the middle of the mourning period. It is not courtesy to make comments such as “we will punish the enemy in case of a provocation” and such and such. People tend to remember how you behaved when they suffered a loss. The (South Korean) government should react wisely.

Seo Eun-ah(@eunah386) commented [ko] on North Korean responses:

CNN에 북한주민들의 반응이 나오는데, 넘 슬프게 운다. 갑자기 중학교때 박정희가 죽었을 때 수업 들어오자 마자 미친듯이 통곡하던 윤리선생과 나도 모르게 미친듯이 울었던 내가 떠오른다. 공통점이 있지 않을까?

I am watching now North Korean people's responses on CNN and people are sobbing so badly. I remember the time when our former South Korean President Part Jung-hee met an untimely death. That day, my ethics teacher, who had just entered the classroom, cried out loud like a crazy person and I also started sobbing really hard. Is there any similarity between (how people react to) these two cases?

A North Korean economy specialist, Yoon Jae-won (@yjw23_kseri) tweeted [ko] his analysis (the following is the second, of two points he made):

2) 그러나 김일성 사망당시에도 대부분의 외부전문가들이 북한붕괴 월단위로 계산했던 것 생각하면 속단하긴 어렵습니다. 당시 소련붕괴, 고난의 행군, 김일성 사망이라는 3대 악재에 북한 붕괴가 자연스러운 현상이었으나 북한은 붕괴하지 않았습니다.

2) But we cannot jump to conclusions that the North Korean regime will soon collapse. Even after Kim Il-Sung's [the founding father] death and despite North Korean specialists’ predictions that it would takes only few months for North Korea to collapse, the country survived. Three misfortunes, the meltdown of Soviet Union, the hunger strike and Kim Il-Sung's death all happened at the same time, and it seemed only natural for North Korea to collapse, but it did not.

As people tweet and blog increasingly about the death of Kim, the South Korean Communications Standards Commission has warned [ko] that they will start censoring pro-North Korean comments or posts.

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