It feels a little weird being in South Korea in the wake of Kim Jong Il’s death. This is a major world event that may have far reaching effects and I’m incredibly close to where it happened. A couple of my friends actually took a tour of a part of the DMZ just a couple of weekends ago; now such tours are probably put on hold until a little more certainty can be found. Supposedly the South Korean military has been put on alert, though I haven’t noticed much. About the only thing that has changed for me, personally, is that my ESL students will occasionally break out into a happy song about the dictator being dead. The rest of life marches on the same as it has.
I imagine it is quite different in North Korea, where he was the “Dear Leader” and rather revered by his people. Considering the nature of his regime, it’s no surprise; he had an efficient propaganda machine. I wonder how many of his people realize that the “Dear Leader’s” policies contributed to the famine in the 1990s. And I wonder how his son will lead North Korea. Will there be a North Korean version of perestroika and glasnost? Will there be more of the same? Or will “two regimes, unalike in dignity / in fair Korea, where we lay our scene, / from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, / where civil blood makes civil hands unclean?” (adapted from the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)