As I post this item, it’s Christmas Eve (except in those far-flung regions of our vast readership where Christmas has already dawned, and the detritus of Christmas Day is giving way to a search for Double-A batteries, a 13mm socket wrench or that allspice mix you KNEW you must be in the spice cabinet). It’s also Hanukkah for Jews, so there is a lot of holiday-making across the world. That also means it’s a day on which few people will visit Under Western Skies. They have better things to do.
One place that isn’t affected by religious holidays isn’t going to generate much traffic on the site, either. In North Korea there is not only no Christmas (or any non-State holiday), but no double A batteries, 13mm socket wrenches OR allspice … or much food of any kind, for that matter. Nor is there much in the way of internet connectivity; to my knowledge, UWS has never had a hit from North Korea. Were you there, your mind would be bent to only one immense reality: the recent death of the Dear Leader. At the tender age of 69, he left them, with the youngest of his three wacky sons in his place as apparent heir (here, cue the theme music from “My Three Sons” — who plays the role of Uncle Bub?).
Now, the Dear Leader — Kim Jong-il — was the son of Kim Il-sung: the Great Leader. We now learn that Dear Leader’s successor — his son, Kim Jong-un, that is (because that’s how things are done in North Korea, England and Monaco) — will be known as … wait for it … “Outstanding Leader.”
Obviously, these are English translations of terms that have immense cultural weight in a language of which I have not the faintest grasp. For all I know, they’re all signified by arcane Hangul symbols that have infinitely subtle differentiations, and don’t ascribe at all well to transliteration into our notoriously vague English, love it as we may.
Still, this business of giving nicknames to leaders has a proud history, and one assumes that the North Korean Department of Propaganda and Agitation (I kid you not, that’s its official title — in English) has provided a useful official translation and all appropriate supporting material. We’ve had Peter the Great, Alexander the Great and, in music, the Great Caruso. We do a bit of it here in the U.S., too, though without making the names part of official state discourse. Lincoln was the Great Emancipator. Reagan was the Great Communicator. Taft was the Great Big Fatso — okay, I made that one up.
There’s an implied, subtle progression, though, from Great Leader to Dear Leader to Outstanding Leader. Assuming that the rest of the world is content to let N. Korea stew in its own juices for untold generations, what will be next? Will Kim Jong-un’s son (or daughter — sorry one has to ask) be the Acceptable Leader, to be followed, in one decade after the next, by the Leading Leader, the Reasonable Leader, the OK Leader, and the Not-As-Good-As-the-Previous-But-Still-Noticeable Leader?
One might choose one other model: the superior of those nefarious villains, Boris and Natasha. They, of course, reported to Fearless Leader. I think it would have been an irony beyond our mere human means to appreciate if North Korea had determined to be headed by Fearless Leader.
I ask you, Dear Readers: what should be on the list of names for future North Korean leaders? I await your comments.
And have a merry holiday season, however you may celebrate it. I await the joy of the season with endless optimism, as always.
Now, where did I put that allspice that Piano Nan sent me?
© 2012 Brad Nixon