[Viewpoint] A frank letter to the Young GeneralDear General Kim Jong-un,
I originally intended to address this letter to North Korean Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il, but changed my mind and decided to write a letter to you. I have made the decision because your father’s ability to think appears to be seriously hindered as he is running in the opposite direction away from what appears to be a clear path to save the North Korean economy from the imminent collapse by improving ties with South Korea and the United States.
You are a young man of 27 years old. And yet, you bear the insignia of a general and were named as the successor of the Kim dynasty based on your close physical resemblance to your grandfather. As a father also with a young son, I cannot help but feel sorry for you. When a man ages and faces death due to illness, it is a natural instinct to be rely on blood ties, but it is such an absurd idea to hand over an impoverished country to a young man in his 20s.
I am writing this letter to you because you, as a young general with the capability to think freshly, must place a check on your father’s irrational behavior. Your father is hastening the collapse of the North Korean regime although he insists that he is trying to defend it.
Just think about the outcome that were brought about by the Cheonan’s sinking and the Yeonpyeong Island shelling. South Korea has seized a good opportunity to review its readiness against the North. The South Korea-U.S. alliance has easily overcome the weakness in bilateral ties that occur during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. The alliance is now at its strongest and firmest since the Korean War.
The South won’t sit with folded arms after two humiliating attacks. Try attacking the South Korean soil or a South Korean ship with your long-range artillery and coastal guns. The source of any attack will face a brutal retaliation by the South’s Navy and Air Force and be completely incapacitated. Will this ever help restore the North Korean economy and support your succession?
The United States is more aggressive than the South in strengthening the South’s defense posture. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff has been repeatedly making hard-line remarks in Seoul and Tokyo. The Japanese Self-defense Force is looking for an opportunity to contribute to the South Korea-U.S. joint deterrence against the North as long as this receives the support of the South Korean public. One thing is clear that the South Korea-U.S. alliance and the U.S.-Japan alliance are complementing each other in retaliation against a North Korean provocation.
And don’t take lightly the condemnation of the international community, including Russia. Your father appeared to trust China deeply, but the Chinese won’t be able to defend the North forever unless Pyongyang stops rogue activities that disturb global peace and contribute to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Do you know that the Communist Party and the government of China are already feeling “North Korea fatigue”?
The revelation of the uranium enrichment facility amounts to immature and predictable nuclear brinkmanship. Even a good drug’s effect wears off when you use it too often. Don’t you understand that your nuclear brinkmanship is no longer effective?
The idea of promoting you as a great military strategist because of the recent provocation is a mistake since it treats the North Korean people as fools. The only way for you to become a legitimate leader will be if you deliver economic success - a task in which your father and grandfather failed - not your grandfather-look-alike face and the madness of destroying peace.
When I read a Japanese newspaper report that you had made a promise to your people to feed them steamed rice and meat soup within four years, I could not help but laugh at first, and then was enraged. That’s what your grandfather promised in his New Year’s address in 1962. At the time, North Korea’s national income per capita was $178, twice of that of the South’s $87. And yet, the North’s figure for last year was $1,118, miserably lower than the South’s $20,000.
What did your grandfather and father do for the past 48 years? Do you think it is possible for the hundreds of thousands of people to die of starvation in the 20th and 21st century? Isn’t this the outcome when the Kim family and the nation’s leadership has wasted aid given by the South and the international community to support extravagant lifestyles and develop nuclear and missile programs?
Since you are an atheist, it may sounds strange, but I would like to introduce you to Verse Four in Chapter Two of the famous Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. When you are alone, in a quiet time, read it carefully and contemplate deeply. It said, “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Let me put this in easier words for you to understand. It means dismantle your nuclear arms program and missiles systems and use the money to develop your economy.
This may not be easy, but you are a young general and you must make sure to prevent your father conducting any more inhumane crimes against the Korean people in the little time that he left. If you follow in your father’s footsteps and become intoxicated with power, you will find yourself standing on a precipice.
*The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s editor-at-large for international affairs.
By Kim Young-hie