We live in very odd times. There are people who are, flat out, convinced that the government (a/k/a Obama) can create tornadoes at will. This is despite the fact that salting, or seeding, clouds is so wildly unpredictable (it can cause anything from rain to drought) that no one does it any more. So if something that simple eludes science I sincerely doubt they have secret tornado generating machines hidden somewhere. It isn’t like they can just toss a propeller in the atmosphere and have at it. This isn’t like twirling your finger in a bathtub. But, stupid people aside, there is one guy who has caught a ton of ridicule for his, allegedly, infantile take on the geo-political realities in which we live. I am, of course, talking about Dennis Rodman. In March, D-Rod said that he had made a “friend for life” with Kim Jong Un, the undisputed ruler of North Korea. Then his friend for life immediately thanked him for that shout out and threatened to nuke Texas. Also Japan, South Korea, anyone named Elroy (allegedly) and so on down the list. He even went so far as to trot out an, alleged, nuclear missile, which stayed on a rack for a couple of days and then was taken away. All along Rodman has insisted that Kim Jong Un is just a soul whose intentions are good; Oh Lord, please don’t let him be misunderstood. And it’s easy to see how Americans might misunderstand someone who recently released a book entitled Let Us Carry Out the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung’s Instructions for National Reunification. Zay Smith wants you to know that it’s available in Bangladesh if you can’t find it on Amazon.
But, and this is a big but (and we all know that big butts cannot lie), what if Little Kim, we can call him that because we’re buds by association (journalistic transparency moment, D-Rod has bought me beer before), really isn’t an insanely evil dictator of an impoverished country? What if D-Rod was right and Little Kim is just a nice guy who likes chocolate? What if, after all the posturing to make the military wonks happy, all Little Kim really wants is an amusement park and some friends?
Tom Phillips, from the Telegraph U.K. office in Shanghai, says there may be more than a grain of truth to that.
Pyongyang’s take on Augustus Pugin’s iconic clock tower will feature in a theme park that is planned to open this year, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
The “miniature world” park, which will also boast a replica of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, is reportedly part of a construction boom that began in the capital in 2010.
Last year, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un vowed to bring to an end decades of austerity and hardship with the slogan: “No More Belt-Tightening.”
The Associated Press, which is the only western news organisation allowed to operate permanently inside the secretive state, reported that Pyongyang’s “transformation” had seen its downtown areas spruced up with “glossy construction” including “department stores, restaurants and high-rise apartments.” At the centre of this construction frenzy is Changjon street, in downtown Pyongyang, where a brand-new supermarket trades in Hershey’s Kisses, Coca-Cola and Doritos.
“Inside supermarkets where shopgirls wear French designer labels, people with money can buy Italian wine, Swiss chocolates, kiwi fruit imported from New Zealand and fresh-baked croissants,” the Associated Press reported.
“They can get facials, lie in tanning booths, play a round of mini golf or sip cappuccinos and cocktails while listening to classical music.”
Last month the China Daily newspaper said North Korea was also a building a “mini-golf theme park” in order to boost tourism.
But despite attempts to give Pyongyang a makeover, conditions outside the capital remain dire with food rationing widespread and the supply of electricity sporadic.
Last month, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that around 2.8 million North Koreans were “in need of regular food assistance amid worrying levels of chronic malnutrition and food insecurity.” Twenty-five per cent of North Korean children suffered from “chronic malnutrition,” the report said.
“Supplies of medicine and equipment are inadequate; water and heating systems need repair, and the infrastructure of schools and colleges is deteriorating rapidly.”
Kenneth Bae, a 44-year-old ethnic Korean with US citizenship, is currently facing a possible death sentence in North Korea on charges that he attempted “to topple the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” during a visit last November.
The details of Mr Bae’s alleged crimes are unclear but reports have suggested he may have angered authorities by taking photographs of impoverished children.
For the record, as of this writing, Rodman has, correctly, noted that no one is doing anything to free Mr. Bae. He has asked his BFF for Mr. Bae to be released and has been granted a return visit to North Korea on August 1. Since this the only topic listed on the itinerary that could get interesting.
I have no idea how the world will react if professional diplomacy fails and Rodman succeeds. But I sincerely doubt if Mr. Bae’s family will be all that upset.
On the other hand, I could learn to like a world that celebrated peace through partying.