Magazine article Business Asia

Bordering on the Ridiculous

Magazine article Business Asia

Bordering on the Ridiculous

Article excerpt

NOT LONG ago, South Korea was denouncing Kim Jong II, North Korea's eccentric leader, as a nuclear terrorist.

Now, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung turns up in Pyongyang to tell Kim Jong II: "We are one people. We share the same fate. Let us hold hands firmly. I love you."

Say what?

Whatever is going on, the import is that the Berlin Wall of Asia just fell; the border that divides the two Koreas is about to swing open, at least a little bit.

To avoid any confusion between the two Mr Kims, I will refer to Kim Jong II by his local nickname, "Dear Leader".

Mr Kim and Dear Leader were together in Pyongyang last month for historic talks that promise to greatly ease tensions between the two Koreas.

I applaud what is happening, but there are a few things I don't understand. For years now, we have been hearing that Dear Leader is off his rocker. He has been painted by the Western press as a drunk, a psychotic, an unreconstructed Stalinist, and a guy who cheats at golf.

Now suddenly Dear Leader is Dear Peacemaker? It doesn't square with common sense, so something is going on here.

Or did we misread Dear Leader? And what about all those stories and pictures of deprivation, even starvation? Aren't the North Korean children starving? Isn't North Korea on the verge of total collapse?

Frankly, all that Dear Leader had to do was ask for help and he probably would have received it. Any sign that he was ready to talk would not have been ignored. But wait -- maybe he is doing precisely that.

The clever part is that, as we have been told, the emphasis in this accord is for allowing reunions of divided families.

But think about this: when these families get together, the families in the South are going to come stocked up with a lot of food, medicine and money for their misfortunate kin in the North. …

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