Pity us poor reporters. This columnist covered a North Korean election in the 1990s. There was only one candidate! So for the first and only time in my life, I wrote a firm, confident prediction about who would win an election. I got it wrong.
Pity us poor reporters. This columnist covered a North Korean election in the 1990s. There was only one candidate! So for the first and only time in my life, I wrote a firm, confident prediction about who would win an election. I got it wrong. The North Korean Electoral College discussed the issue for hours and finally gave the presidency to the corpse of the candidate’s father. I felt sorry for the loser. It must really hurt to be defeated by a decomposing pile of organic matter. (Ask Hillary Clinton.)
Any way, in honour of the peace deal signed by the leader of North Korea a few days ago, we look back today on news items this columnist has featured about that country. Some years ago, my colleague Nate Thayer got into the Mausoleum of Kim Il-sung and found on the wall a framed PhD from Kensington University of California. This is not a real university, but a printer of fake degree certificates. When I want to inspire my children to think big, I remind them of this fact. A fake degree obtained through the Internet helped Kim Il-Sung get to be a world famous despot. You can achieve anything with ambition, cunning and luck.
In 2011, Kim Jong-un became leader of North Korea and we started receiving announcements that he would destroy the United States, often accompanied by pictures of him looking through binoculars. We wondered when someone would tell him that a person on a beach in North Korea cannot see the US with binoculars.
In 2012, he launched a missile designed to fly 2,000 kilometres over East Asia. But it blew up not far from the launch base. The following day, Kim Jong-un said any country which picked up debris would face “ruthless retaliation”. In other words, they would launch another missile which would disintegrate above its launch pad. Take that!
Also in 2012, Kim Jong-un did a photo-op visiting a gym. He said workers should “take exercise and receive medical treatment” so that they can “devote themselves to revolutionary work in good health”. No one seemed to see the irony of the immense Mr Kim, a lover of pizza, giving out fitness tips.
In 2013, Kim Jong-un released video taken in his missile launch centre. Eagle-eyed viewers noticed his monitors were running the Windows Vista programme. This was worrying. Picture the scene. Hackers send a virus to launch all the missiles at once. Kim’s tech head reaches for his computer to stop them. But the screen freezes and up pops a message: “Keyboard not responding. Press any key to continue.”
In the following years, many claims were made that North Korean missiles could reach the United States. But I was doubtful. Their missiles could barely get out of North Korea. The only way they could get them to the US would have been to Fedex them.
In late 2016, North Korean government officials banned sarcastic comments against them. I found their official Internet address and sent them a complimentary email: “Great idea, you bunch of geniuses!” I’m sure they were grateful. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to buy a PhD from the Internet. You can achieve anything with ambition, cunning and luck.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via his Facebook page)