Flaws in the Kims’ perfection
The Hankyoreh (South Korea)
In North Korea, the Kim ruling family is seen as godlike, said Lee Je-hun. State propaganda hails Great Leader Kim Il Sung—the Hermit Kingdom’s first dictator—and his son Dear Leader Kim Jong Il as the embodiment of wisdom. But the Kim now in charge, Kim Jong Un, has dared to hint that his forefathers made mistakes. Last week, he ordered officials to raze the “unpleasant-looking” buildings at the Mount Kumgang resort. The complex, which is just a few miles inside North Korea and was built largely by South Korea, opened in 1999 with the goal of luring tourists from the South. But the resort has largely sat empty since 2008, when a soldier shot dead a South Korean visitor. Kim said building the resort was a “very wrong, dependent policy of the predecessors”—meaning his father. Kim also criticized his grandfather a few months ago, when he added market reforms to the farm sector, saying Kim Il Sung should not be mythologized. Taken together, the comments are reminiscent of how Deng Xiaoping nudged China’s Communist Party to accept the flaws in Mao Zedong’s policies. Like Deng, Kim Jong Un is pragmatic and reform-minded, and he is punching holes in the doctrine of infallibility. It could be a “sign of a major change” in how North Korea is governed.