Youth often times proves a torrent of wind and wild fire. Like a geyser spouting unpredictable fits of brilliance, its strength and weakness no doubt lies in its reckless abandon. Without mindfulness or fear of consequence, youth can manifest like a runaway freight train, consuming everything in its path. If history is anything to go by, we know that youthful fervour has the potential to destroy as much as it does to inspire. Caligula and Nero taught us that, paving the way for the likes of Alexander III of Macedon and King Henry VIII, who are just a few among a long list of despotic youths that blot the human saga. Without want of another cliché, we reluctantly usher a new era of youth by the ascension of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader and the world’s youngest head of state. Since assuming leadership, the 29-year son of the late Kim Jong-il has already threatened to attack Washington with nuclear weapons, declared a state of war with neighbouring South Korea and warned diplomats to evacuate the peninsula. We ask, why? We say how? After all, this isn’t Rome 40 AD. Yet notwithstanding all 21st conveniences, technologies and rhetoric, our instincts seem to be the same as they were 2000 years ago – only now they are charged by nuclear power.
The belligerence of North Korea induces a clear take-home message: nuclear war remains a serious threat. Despite decades of extensive humanitarianism, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts on both sides of the hemisphere, it seems the Cold War never really thawed. While North Korea’s antagonisms continue, a feverish Asian arms race has begun, which collectively, (for the first time), exceeds military spending in Europe. However amidst all this jostling for power, a pageant of east-meets-west sees an unlikely alliance between the United States and China. In tandem with the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the two superpowers have come together on strategy and deliberation, recognizing North Korea’s lack of experience with certain technologies, lack of nuclear and missile capacity, UN sanctions, and strained global diplomatic relations. However, despite this, Kim Jong-un remains, an unshakable youth.
So who is this Kim Jong-un anyway? Of all the political and military positions young Kim has assumed over the years, (which altogether seem quasi comedic), the latest title of Supreme Leader of North Korea is by far, the most disconcerting. After all, the title assumes power over an ultra-nationalistic government that not only occupies a hot seat with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but also seeks to join the nuclear power club via fear and exhibition. The lack of biographical information available on Kim Jong-un however, provokes a greater unease within the international community. What little we do know about the mysterious youth is a silhouetted profile that casts a much bigger shadow than the man himself.
Having attended a western education in Switzerland under the alias, Un Pak, Kim Jong-un went on to complete two degrees from both Kim Il-sung University and Kim Il-sung Military University, (albeit with reportedly poor attendance and grades). Coveting a love for Yves Saint Laurent cigarettes, Johnnie Walker whiskey, and Eric Clapton’s music, the Mercedes-Benz-driving, twenty-something has been described by former classmates as being, “obsessed with basketball and computer games.” Recent reports testify to a rise in luxury goods creeping into North Korea, which reveal an expensive taste in French couture. Of course, it is no secret that Kim Jong-un favors a luxurious lifestyle of heavy drinking and partying, attested by former personal chef, Kenji Fujimoto. Having disclosed certain details about their relationship, Fujimoto has been quoted saying, “he has superb physical gifts, is a big drinker and never admits defeat.”
Now you may think Johnnie Walker, Eric Clapton and Michael Jordan have little to do with nuclear threat, but in fact, they tell us a lot about the kind of person the world might be dealing with. The excessive dualistic depiction of Kim Jong-un evokes a cruel irony. Much like a nymphomaniac sworn to celibacy, Kim Jong-un appears to be of two minds – a split personality, riven by his commitment to North Korea’s internal juche ideology and his love for external superfluities. This hypocrisy sheds light on North Korea’s latest provocations. They appear as Kim Jong-un – without substance, without mindfulness and without truth. So the world should take care. While Washington and Beijing attempt to engage Pyongyang in diplomatic talks, (engaging in critical thinking to get to the root of the problem), critics argue that it may not be enough. The tricky thing about an eye for an eye is that both parties end up losing their eye and when it comes to nuclear power, that’s one big eye.
Despite the downplay of North Korea’s military grandiloquence in recent weeks, the country continues to stand strong on preconditions for resuming talks with the West, and has publicly refused to abandon its nuclear program. Indeed if any diplomatic resolution is to be met, it appears it will have a great deal to do with the resolve of one such fiery and albeit unpredictable youth. North Korea’s internal state structure allows for little upward flow when it comes to information and options, making a myopic gamut of Kim Jong-un’s decision-making process. So while hope lingers for a nuclear-free world, it may very well be the Kim’s of today, concealed in all their western finery, who will determine what future we share tomorrow. Whiskey, World of War Craft and a whole lot of Basketball. Doesn’t sound too bad… Oh yeah and did we mention nuclear power? Long range missiles? We shouldn’t get too cozy while youth has its finger on the trigger. After all, superior physical gifts, heavy drinking and an unwillingness to ever admit defeat might just the perfect formula for a global nuclear meltdown.