Apr 17, 2015 | KIM (SQUARE)

Kim Jong-un: Toast of the Town

North Korean third-generation dear-leader Kim Jong-un seems to be the popular kid on the block, albeit the gang-ruled, on-the-wrong-side-of-town kind of block. After the much publicized invitation by Russian president Vladimir Putin to attend the World War II commemorations in Moscow in May, Beijing has also asked Kim to attend another World War II bash, this one in September celebrating the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender.

 

Add a controversial movie featuring non other than the rotund, impish leader himself that transcended the (sub)cultural sphere of entertainment to become a global diplomatic-cum-political hot potato & spark a spectacular hacking scandal, a talk-of-the-town new coiffure and the steady barrage of pictures monopolizing the web (at least that's the official Korean Central News Agency line), and there you have it, after only three years of rule Kim has managed to monopolize the world's attention.  

 

Sure, it helps when you have nuclear weapons at your disposal and a knack to threaten to use them any chance you get. It also helps to cultivate a super human persona of extraordinary powers (school children are taught that Kim could drive at age three), to be of holy lineage and to have a bountiful stock of flamboyant titles to chose from ("Glorious General who Descended from Heaven" maybe?), all wrapped up in an enticing cloak of mystery. Though it has to be said that this approach of projecting awesomeness works best on his domestic captive audience; still, for the rest of us it's great entertainment.

 

For all this meticulous and bombastic exposure you would expect that world leaders would be lining up to meet Kim in person in those extremely rare occasions that arise. Yet peculiarly that is not the case. Most western heads of state for example have declined participating in the Moscow fanfare despite the high probability of his attendance. Sure, they claim Putin's transgressions in Ukraine is the reason for the no-show but let's be honest, they are just jealous of Kim's burgeoning popularity compared with their own status. A photo-op with Kim would only emphasize their political transience (term limits anyone?) and blandness aura. His considerable circumference would also make them look bony.  

 

That must be why even those that will attend are going out of their way to avoid a face to face encounter. Take Czech President Milos Zeman who has explicitly declared that under no circumstances will he shake hands with Kim. He will presumably also refrain from hi-fiving, fist-bumping, bro-hugging or cheek-kissing. To preempt any awkward moment where Kim himself will attempt to force some kind of interaction, he has been advised to keep his hand in his pockets at all times and wear sunglasses to avoid eye contact.

 

Fortunately for Kim, there are those like Putin who share with him the desire & certainty for intransient rule as well as the prerogative of being a nation's overlord (the nation's consent is besides the point) and will therefore be more than willing to provide a warm welcome.