The Last Emperor – Kim Jong Il, North Korean Leader

New York Times Magazine published a great new in-depth look inside life and legacy of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. A few paragraphs are pasted below… but the full text is definitely worth a read. It sounds like we’re going to be hearing lots more Dear Leader in next couple years.

The Dear Leader is a workaholic. Kim Jong Il sleeps four hours a night, or if he works through the night, as he sometimes does, he sleeps four hours a day. His office is a hive of activity; reports cross his desk at all hours. Dressed as always in his signature khaki jumpsuit, he reads them all, issuing instructions to aides, dashing off handwritten notes or picking up the phone at 3 a.m. and telling subordinates what should lead the news broadcasts or whom to dispatch to a prison camp. His micromanaging style is less Caligula, with whom he has often been compared, and more Jimmy Carter on an authoritarian tear.

The Dear Leader, as the North Korean media refer to him, wishes to be viewed as a modern leader. He has boasted to visitors that he has three computers in his office, though it’s not known if he operates them himself or has aides who do so. His eldest son is reputed to be a computer whiz and, like sons the world over, is credited with bringing his father into the digital age. When Madeleine K. Albright, then the secretary of state, visited North Korea in 2000, Kim asked her, as he said farewell, to give him the State Department’s e-mail address.

Because of weakening eyesight, the Dear Leader rarely reads newspapers; for keeping abreast of world affairs, he relies on television. It is a safe bet that he is well aware of the uproar caused by his government’s confirmation, earlier this month, that it has begun making nuclear bombs from reprocessed plutonium. In a meeting a few years ago with a group of South Korean media executives, Kim explained that he began watching South Korean television in 1979. A media junkie, he also watches NHK from Japan, as well as CCTV from China and CNN. Having led his nation into chronic poverty and famine, what does he make of the enormous wealth he sees in the broadcasts and commercials? Full Text >>