What has been happening in North Korea recently is straight out of the Hereditary Dictatorship for Dummies handbook. Kim Jong-un, the pudgy young heir to the leadership of one of the world’s last communist states, is removing powerful people who were loyal to his father and replacing them with men (it’s always men) who owe their advancement only to him.
Vice-marshal Ri Yong-ho, the chief of the North Korean army until late last week, was not disloyal to the new boss. On the contrary, Ri’s support was vital in ensuring a smooth transition after the death of Kim Jong-Il, the old boss, and he gave it unstintingly. But in the end, the vice-marshal didn’t owe everything to Kim Jong-un –so he had to go.
In his place, Kim Jong-un has promoted a man nobody had ever heard of before. His name is Hyon Yong-chol. The point is that Hyon will have annoyed a lot of other generals in the army because he has been promoted over their heads, and so he is absolutely dependent on the goodwill of the young master.
And just to be sure, Kim Jong-un had himself promoted to marshal this week, so now he outranks everybody else in the armed forces. At least he hasn’t had all his brothers and half-brothers killed in order to rule out any challenges from within the family, like the Ottoman sultans used to do after they ascended to the throne. So there is progress, you see.
Things are done very differently in South Korea. There, the presidents are chosen by the free vote of all the people (or at least all the ones who bother to vote). But the candidate most likely to win the presidential elections this December is the daughter of the dictator who ruled the country with an iron hand for two decades, until he was finally assassinated in 1979.
There are, to be sure, some striking differences between Park Geun-hye, who will probably be South Korea’s first female president, and the callow youth who is scrambling to put his stamp on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea up north.
Read the whole story: London Free Press