If you were hoping that the world's youngest head of state would prove himself to be less of a caricature of a Bond villain than his demented father, I think you can stop now. Any vestige of the muted optimism that Kim Jong-Un would be a less autocratic and mentally unstable leader than his father, Kim Jong-Il, has been obliterated by the 29 year old despot's insistence that the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" be the platonic ideal of the 20th century Stalinist state. In what little of 2013 we've experienced up until now, North Korea has successfully launched a long-range rocket into orbit for the first time, threatened nuclear retaliation against the US and South Korea in anticipation of any further sanctions that might be imposed upon them, and then all but begged the United Nations to place those sanctions on them by performing an underground nuclear test. Much to the dismay of the international community, Kim Jong-Un appears to be a chip off the old bloc.
For those of you unfamiliar with North Korea's peculiar brand of diplomacy, there isn't a whole lot of nuance to parse through. In fact, if you've ever seen an Arnold Schwarzenegger film involving international terrorists or an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, you already have a feel for the general tone of their recent statements. If you think I'm being glib, the North Koreans actually refer to the United States in their declarations as being, “the sworn enemy of the Korean people,” while dismissing the South Koreans as being a “puppet group of traitors.” I haven't seen the remake of Red Dawn where North Korea(1) tries its hand at becoming the dread overlords of America, but I'd imagine that the propaganda sent out by fictional North Korea is more believable than what the country is actually releasing.
The fact of the matter is that, of Bush's original Axis of Evil, North Korea is the most militarily advanced and poses the greatest immediate threat to American security. While Iraq and Iran have never had “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in their arsenals, the North Koreans have had nuclear capabilities since 2006 and have been chomping at the bit to show them off to whoever in the international community would pay attention. With the success of their most recent missile launch, the North Koreans now have much of the technology and materials required to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the west coast of the United States. Of course, that is much easier said than done and the US intelligence community seems fairly confident that the North Koreans are still a long ways away from making that a logistical reality, if they were ever so unhinged as to try it. But, despite being the biggest threat on paper, the rationale that caused the Bush & Obama administrations to go after Iraq & Iran instead of North Korea helps explain why the international community is reasonably sure that the North Koreans have no real intentions of dropping a nuclear bomb on anyone.
The Iranian government, and to a lesser extent the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein, is fundamentally different than that of the People's Democratic Republic of Korea because their ideological framework is thoroughly grounded in fundamentalist religious beliefs. While Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is technically an elected political official, he is very much an ideological extension of the Ayatollah Khameni and the Islamic Right. When mixed with the degree of anti-western sentiment and terrorist activity already endemic to the region, the Iranian government's belligerent flouting of UN resolutions in their pursuit of a nuclear weapons program creates a huge threat to the security of a number of nations, most notably Israel and the US. As we are reminded on a monthly, weekly and sometimes daily basis, any stability in the Middle East and Northern Africa is tenuous at best and a situations like those in Benghazi or the West Bank can take shape in an instant. With the writing on the wall suggesting that the Syrian government led by Bashar Al-Assad has little chance of retaining power in the long run, the fate of the administration's stockpile of chemical weapons becomes uncertain. That Al-Qaeda linked organizations could acquire some of these weapons after an Assad fall is a distinct possibility and one made infinitely more frightening concerning any regime change in the region involving a nation with nuclear capabilities.
That's not how North Korea rolls. Or, at least, it's not how their ruling class rolls. Kim Jong-Un didn't become an extra fluffy baby-faced manchild by living an austere existence and pledging eternal devotion to an omnipotent creator of the universe. No, that type of roly poly pasty physique only comes from a truly American commitment to self-worship and materialism. Just as he has his father's weak chin and baby Asian Elvis coiffure, Kim Jong-Un has inherited his dad's insatiable lust for luxuries. According to the former personal chef of Kim Jong-Un and his father, the young people's prince had cultivated a love of Johnnie Walker scotch and Yves St. Laurent cigarettes since his teenage years, and showed great interest in K-Pop, Mercedes Benzes, Super Mario Brothers even went to Tokyo Disney Land with his mother on one of his rare trips outside of the country. Of course, his father elevated excess to an art form, having live lobsters airlifted to his armored private train daily, making servant women check every grain of rice he ate for uniform length and color and kidnapping a South Korean film director and his actress wife to help create North Korea's film industry.
It has been said by several of Kim Jong-Un's classmates at the schools he attended while living in Bern, Switzerland that the he was particularly obsessed with basketball. Apparently, the diminutive future dictator actually had some game (he was less doughy back then), distinguishing himself on the court while cultivating a love of the NBA off of it. One of his classmates said that his room was a basically a personal shrine to The Association, claiming that he had pictures of himself with Toni Kucoc and Kobe Bryant in unknown locations. As a matter of fact, both Kim Jong-Un and his father were huge Michael Jordan fans, a fact underscored by the fact that then Secretary of State Madeline Albright presented Kim Jong-Il with a signed MJ basketball during her visit to North Korea. And, while they couldn't get Jordan or Scottie Pippen or even Steve Kerr to come to their half of the Korean Peninsula, Kim Jong-Un did cause the media to go into an epileptic fit when he invited Dennis Rodman over for some sort of unofficial diplomatic visit a few weeks ago.
Now, I ask you, how can Kim Jong-Un nuke the crap out of the west coast of the US when he runs the risk of blowing up his beloved Lakers? And, beyond that, why hasn't any administration sent Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant over to North Korea to negotiate a non-proliferation treaty? If the man would bend over backwards to get The Worm to make a diplomatic pit stop, imagine what he'd do if we sent an actual NBA legend over. You know the little bastard would be so starstruck that he would try to hand His Airness all of their nukes on site in exchange for a pick up game and inclusion of a Pyongyang team in the NBA's Developmental League. Kim Jong-Un is a scotch drinking, cigarette smoking, overeating, image-obsessed mess of a man who dreams about dunking on Yao Ming and suffers from diabetes and hypertension. What could be more American than that?
1 China was originally cast in the role of tyrannical baddie, but studio execs ultimately decided it was poor form to demonize one of the 5 biggest media markets in the world in their film and changed it to North Korea, where I honestly don't know if they have movie theaters.