Archive | December 19, 2011

Assorted Reactions to the Death of Kim Jong-Il

Me: Finally, we’ll have something to talk about in my conversation class.

My conversation class student: I hear the son is worse than the father.

Coworkers at lunch: Not saying much, but hearing his name and South Korea’s president Lee Mynug-Bak’s name thrown around. But certainly there’s no panic in the lunchroom.

My Coteacher after I told her: No way! Where did you hear this? (the BBC – CNN had yet to mention it on their international headlines.)

Some students: Who cares!?! We want to play Halli Galli!!!

Friends on Facebook: Equal parts panic and gallows humor alongside Team America clips and quotes of “Ding dong, the witch is dead”. One or two asked when I would be leaving Korea.

Me (hearing loudspeaker truck drive by making an announcement): Is that important or is that just someone selling bananas?


Kim Jong-Il has died. I made the joke on Facebook that the Atlas Obscura will have to update their list of Communist mummies soon. More seriously though… wow. I have no idea what this means or what will happen next.

This event has the potential to bury the previous two crises I’ve witnessed in the sand. Or not, because when it comes to North Korea I think we’re looking at a heavily armed and militarized inkblot. Who knows what’s happening inside it. I’m sure some people do — but the truth seems to get buried beneath our projections.

Right now South Korea’s on military alert. From past experiences the North has reacted to internal instability with external aggression. For this reason alone going on alert seems justified. But the war didn’t turn hot again in 1994 when Kim Il-Sung died, so it’s not like we haven’t been here before. Whether Kim Jong-Un, Jong-Il’s successor and son, lives out the rest of the month is another matter.

Crazy times ahead… well, crazier.