The Gangster and the Poet – Kim Jong Il and Vaclav Havel


This week, we have been treated to odd bits of news from the North Korean state media machine. According them, Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack on Saturday, December 17, 2011. The “news” that has been broadcast from North Korea has been rather interesting.

One of my young coworkers took the time to read and analyze some of the very odd claims that were made for North Korean consumption and for those imaginary North Korean admirers that the NK government likes to pretend exist in large numbers across the world. Here are a few of the recent outlandish claims from a nation that is so crippled it can produce little more than outlandish claims.

Kim Jong Il lived for five thousand years. Kim Jong Il did not urinate or defecate because he was a higher being that didn’t need to do those lowly human functions. It’s not often that Westerners or anyone living outside of North Korea agrees with the NK media, but based on that particular claim, Westerners were apparently being fair and accurate when saying that Kim was “full of shit.”

We are now being told that a mountain peak in North Korea that was named after Kim Jong Il glowed for an hour after he died. As absurd as it seems, that claim might be accurate. It could be that the insects hiding beneath the frozen surface were so overjoyed at the death of the despised dictator that they glowed like glow worms and fire flies in celebration of his departure from their ecosystem.

The nonsensical and amateurish propaganda that flows from North Korea would all be nothing more than cheap comedy if not for the fact that it tells us something about the current state of their tortured society. Even in authoritarian police states like China, Cuba, Syria, and Iran, there are limits to how outlandish the propaganda can be. Neither North Koreans nor Cubans would believe that their respective crime syndicate leaders were five thousand years old, but the difference is that the Cubans would loudly refuse such asinine statements. It’s a sad comment about the lives of the victims of the North Korean crime state that they feel compelled to pretend to believe such absurdity.

Kim Jong Il had announced that his third son, Kim Jong Un, would inherit the family crime syndicate, but not all is going as planned. Today, North Korea announced that Kim Jong Un’s aunt and her husband would share power with him, and that the military would have more power than they did under Km Jong Il.

My impression is that the North Korean military hates Kim’s sister and her husband and will wrestle for control of the country. At least in the short term, it seems unlikely that the people of North Korea can expect much improvement in their lives. Chronic malnutrition and a complete lack of freedom will continue. Kim Jong Un has a long way to go to gain complete control of North Korea, but the undeserving victims of the ongoing Kim family crime spree have even further to go to reach freedom and human rights.

Kim Jong Un – To show their loyalty, all North Koreans are required to get bad haircuts before Friday. (That’s actually a joke. So far.)

While the news is filled with the farcical proceedings in North Korea, another important world leader left us on December 18, 2011. A brilliant poet who I admired.

On October 5, 1936, a boy, Vaclav Havel, was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. That boy would one day prove instrumental in leading the nation of Czechoslovakia out of the dark ages of forty-nine years of brutal Nazi and Soviet occupation.

image by Ondrej Slama

image by Ondrej Slama

Vaclav Havel was the son of a theater owner father and a wealthy mother. During the Soviet occupation, he was not allowed to attend secondary education because of his “bourgeois” parents, and he was shunted to industrial training. He worked full time and attended night school. Then, he dropped out of economics school and found work as a laborer in theater productions. From that humble beginning, he went on to become one of Europe’s most respected writers, admired poets, and esteemed world leaders.

While living under constant police surveillance and suffering through multiple prison internments, including a five-year stint, Havel managed to write popular plays and was able to see them produced in spite of sabotage by the Czech secret police. What did he have to say after years of abuse? “Truth and love will prevail over lies and hate.”

In 1989, as the Soviet lead Warsaw Pact began to unravel, Havel became the de facto leader of the Velvet Revolution. The Czech secret police and the Soviet KGB had long seen Havel as a dissenter. It is my belief that the Czech police state and the Kremlin decided Havel was just a poet and playwright and would never be able to successfully lead a revolution. They denied permission to their field operatives to assassinate him. They likely feared that killing Havel would have left less known and less visible leaders in charge of the resistance.

Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia on December 29, 1989 and served in that office until July, 1992. He later served as Prime Minister of the Czech Republic from 1993 until 2003.

The Soviets underestimated the poet and the people of Prague. Now, that poet is gone, but his memory and the freedom that he helped create lives on. The world was a better place with Vaclav Havel in it. It remains a better place for his having passed here.

To his family and to the courageous people of the Czech Republic who defeated brutal tyranny with little more than reason and moral conviction, I offer my sincere condolences and my deep admiration. May reason and moral conviction reign forever in the Czech Republic. May truth and love always prevail over lies and hate.

Tonight, in North Korea, the notions of freedom and human rights appear to be beyond all hope. Only 25 years ago, we would have said the same about Czechoslovakia.

20 comments on “The Gangster and the Poet – Kim Jong Il and Vaclav Havel

  1. educlaytion says:

    I was hoping to hear your thoughts on Havel, Holmes. Well stated. I know much more about the Czech Republic than I do North Korea. The other day a South Korean student of mine brought in some propaganda to show the class. It was from the North and violently anti-American. I wasn’t surprised, but many of his classmates were stunned that such things are propagated. I hope something positive develops now that the godfather is dead.

    Havel will always be an iconic Cold War figure. I love talking about him and the band of creative types, musicians, and more who pressured the communist leaders so much.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Clay.

      “I know much more about the Czech Republic than I do North Korea.” The North Korean ruling gangsters have much to be ashamed of and they work hard at keeping it all secret.

      Havel was indeed a great symbol of hope for people living under tyranny. I am disappointed that his passing has attracted relatively little attention from our media and our government.

  2. Gene Lempp says:

    And thus, crazy little Kim has passed on to do shots with Bugs Bunny. Or something. At least they replaced him with a Zero-calorie UnKim, although looking at him makes me think he ate the other candidates which played the largest role in his selection.

    The greater passage is that of Vaclev Havel, whos mind and pen were truly mighter than the sword of the raging bear and proved that ideas, especially of freedom and equality are the most powerful weapons in any arsenal. Let us hope that more like him are growing in the wings for the world is always in need of heroes like Havel. Rest in peace, friend of humanity.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Gene.

      “Let us hope that more like him are growing in the wings for the world is always in need of heroes like Havel.”

      I always hope so. Even in a country like N K where people spend their entire lives being force fed absurd garbage by the ruling thugs some human spirit persists. From The few fortunate escapees from the N K prison state we have learned that many N K prisoners never believed much of what they were told every day.

      The one nice thing about Kim Il Jong and his father (besides the fact that they are dead) is that they insisted on telling such outrageous lies that were so contrary to nature and reality to the people of North Korea that many North Koreans were able to see through the lies even without access to the world outside of North Korea.

      Kim-3 had been doing his best impression of an iron-fist military leader so based on what little I know about him it does not seem likely that he will attempt any reconciliation with reality.

  3. I liked Rush Limbaugh’s name for him – Kim Mentally Il.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi David. I like the fact that Limbaugh is willing to call a criminal a “criminal” or give him some other suitable title. It’s sad that so many in government and media have insisted on treating the Kim gang as though they were legitimate leaders.

      In my view gangsters are further empowered when we treat them like respectable people and fail to respect their victims.

  4. It’s difficult to check “LIKE” on a post detailing the repression of the people of North Korea, Holmes.

    One can only hope that Kavel’s wisdom that “Peace and Love will prevail over lies and hate” lives in the heart of North Korea.

    I can’t imagine a way out of repression for this country–not with the legions of military “puppets” at the disposal of the dictators. Realist or pessimist?

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Gloria. I never give up hope but change won’t be easy in NK. The last thing that Putin’s new police state or the Chinese want is another free nation on their borders.

      It’s hard to know what lies in the minds of NK generals. If they are at all “pro-Korean” they will want some change.

  5. Two amazingly different men – one true leader, and one total farce! Thanks for sharing!

  6. tomwisk says:

    For every person unworthy of taking up space that dies, someone who made the world a better place has to take the walk. Most of the time we don’t hear about them because they affected a small space. The balance must be kept.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Tomwisk. I’m not sure about balance. I would gladly test any cosmic balance by having two Havels and no dictator.

  7. EllieAnn says:

    Il makes me ill to think about. He brought about the apocalypse for an entire nation. I’m hoping his death will create a crack in that family that another power-hungry but not-so-ill leader will jump into.
    Thanks for the article!

  8. Jeff says:

    Great article. It made me sad, and it made me laugh. It made me hurt for the people of North Korea. But the tale of Vaclav Havel offers hope.

  9. I was horrified to see the videos of people mourning the dictator. I couldn’t tell whether they were forced or they really believed it. All the more horrible if they believed it.

    Thank you for the profile of Vaclav Havel though. I hadn’t heard of him before *blush* but I’m so glad to.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Sonia. Normally any journalism products that leave N K are severely controlled and scripted. Interestingly, BBC quietly filmed the “mourners approaching Kim’s body” in groups. The crying and moaning started as each group entered the official “filming” zone. This is the sort of mistake that N K rarely makes. I wonder if whomever is in charge of those handlers is from an “anti-Kim” faction of the security apparatus. Perhaps they purposely allowed the lapse in control as a subtle attempt to lessen the “God” status of the Kim gang.

      • Wow! I hope whoever filmed it and released the film isn’t harmed because of it. I figured the “journalism” was pretty heavily scripted. I remember seeing videos of very young children performing dances and playing music and the video was bragging about how smart and talented NK kids are…what I saw were little kids who had smiles plastered to their faces and were moving like little robots. Gave me the chills.

  10. Hi Holmes.

    The loss of Kim Jong is no loss at all. The only concern for his passing is what will happen next to that country. Family grab, military takeover, who knows. I doubt it will be a popular uprising because the citizen must have been brainwashed for so long they probably can’t (and daren’t) think of anything else.

    Havel on the other hand was brave and a visionary. He stood up for what he believed in and was willing to carry it through when the hard work needed to be done. Perhaps, as you say, NK may one day find it’s own Havel. It’s Christmas eve, we can always hope.


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