Red Velvet’s mistake
When Thae was in the United Kingdom, Kim Jong-il ordered him to organize an Eric Clapton concert in Pyongyang in 2007. Kim was obsessed with the concert, perhaps at request of his son Jong-chol, a fan of Clapton. Thae reported that the agent asked for 1 million euros ($1.2 million) in advance, and the payment was approved. But later he was told that Eric Clapton would not visit Pyongyang due to human rights concerns, and the concert never happened. After Kim Jong-il’s death, Kim Jong-chol attended a Clapton concert in London in May 2015.
NBA star Dennis Rodman is notorious for his eccentric behavior. In December 2014, a year after Jang Song-thaek was purged, Thae received a communication from Pyongyang. He was asked to obtain the first version of a film on Rodman’s Pyongyang visit from a British documentary film company and send it to Pyongyang. It was then that he first learned North Korea had agreed to produce a propaganda film. After he delivered the copy, a problem arose as the documentary contained a picture of Jang Song-thaek’s execution.
Pyongyang said that Rodman’s visit was related to Kim Jong-un’s external reputation and that the photograph should be removed by any means necessary. However, the film company did not accept the demand. This was the background of Kim Jong-un’s basketball diplomacy, an attempt to show an image of an open-minded leader amid the negative publicity he received after the third nuclear test in February 2013.
Now, let me talk about Red Velvet.
In an interview, a member of the girl group said, “I didn’t know I would get a chance to shake hands with Kim Jong-un. It was an honor.”
I am not complaining about the concert that was successfully arranged in a reconciliatory mood. However, it is a different matter to say that shaking hands with the third-generation hereditary dictator who poisoned his half-brother and detained a tourist for 17 months in a country with no human rights was “an honor.” It is not just out of courtesy but sounds like propaganda.
Some may feel pleased that Kim became a Red Velvet fan. However, as Kim had used Rodman, I find it uncomfortable that Red Velvet was also used.
I don’t expect her to be like Eric Clapton who refused a concert for human rights, but she should not be a Dennis Rodman who was ridiculed for calling Kim Jong-un a good man.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 4, Page 31
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.