Who do You Cry for, Kim Jong-il or Havel

The Death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il stirred up a wide range of public discussion in China. On my main research site Weibo, the debate between pro-democracy individuals and nationalists are again fierce. The pro-democracy individuals tend to talk about Kim’s extravagant life style and various incidents of power abuse, they also emphasize the poverty and repression suffered by the North Korean people with not-so-subtle allusion to similar problems in China. Meanwhile, the nationalist side is mainly concerned about how a destabilized North Korea might affect the geopolitics in the region and how China should continue compete with the US and South Korea in shaping North Korea’s future.

Kim Jong-il

Here is an excerpt of what Hu Xinjing, the Chief Editor of Global Times and an opinion leader among nationalist communities, said after Kim’s death: “China should maintain two principles in dealing with the North Korea situation. First, it is our principle not to interfere with the internal political games of North Korea, we should let it evolve naturally. Second, we are firmly against any pressure from South Korea, the US and Japan, who are aiming to frighten the new leadership of North Korea. With these two principles we can make sure that North Korea can control its own fate as a country and realize its transition in terms of rights and path of development. North Korea shares a common ground of geopolitical interest with China”.

In this statement, we again see the framework of nationalist thinking in which the nation-state is the natural unit of interaction for human society. So the relationship between North Korea, South Korea Japan, China and the US became the focus of discussion rather than the human relationships within North Korea. In this framework, “North Korea” as a whole shares a single “fate” or “intereste” despite the fact that the Kim family lived quite different a life than most North Korean people.  Continue reading