"N. Koreans Rally Around Heir" is the Pravda-like headline on the Boston Globe home page under the news of the death of Kim Jong Il.
I found this hard to believe. Kim Jong Il's personality cult and communist, totalitarian system have given North Korea an annual GDP per capita estimated at $1,800, compared to $30,000 in the free, capitalist, democratic South Korea. The differences in political and economic systems and in related physical well-being are so stark that, as John McCain pointed out in a 2008 presidential debate, South Koreans are three inches taller than North Koreans. Why would North Koreans "rally around" such a brutal, dictatorial family regime rather than bidding it good riddance and breathing a sigh of relief that it is gone?
The Globe headline links to an Associated Press dispatch from Pyongyang that, while pretty bad, doesn't justify the headline. The AP dispatch begins, "PYONGYANG, North Korea—North Korea announced the death of supreme leader Kim Jong Il and urged its people to rally behind his young son and heir-apparent Monday, while the world watched warily for signs of instability in a nation pursuing nuclear weapons."
In other words, the North Koreans aren't rallying around; "North Korea" is urging them to rally around, which is a different thing entirely. Since "North Korea" is a place, not a person, it's not clear to me how it can urge people to do anything. Maybe government-controlled television and broadcast outlets were urging this.
As for the world watching "warily for signs of instability," my own part of the world is watching hopefully for instability, because I'm not in favor of keeping "stable" a part of the world where the people who are stuck living there are unfree, starving, and miserable. Not that the existing situation was "stable," any more than any communist system is over the long term.
The AP story goes on: "The White House said in a statement that it is closely monitoring reports of Kim's death. 'We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies,' the statement said." The article goes on to quote anonymous "administration officials" who "were hopeful that calm would prevail."
The reference to an American commitment to "the freedom and security of our allies" pointedly leaves out any American commitment to, or even hope for, the freedom of North Korea, a country the White House statement apparently wants to remain "stable" in its existing squalor. In hoping that "calm" will prevail in the North, the anonymous Obama administration officials share the same desire as Kim Jong Il's son, who doubtless would like a smooth succession.
I'm not recommending that America invade North Korea or even set up a no-fly or no-drive zone. But one would hope that our foreign policy and defense establishment, which has been planning for years for this moment, would show a little more creativity and imagination about seizing this opportunity to advance freedom and American interests, rather than simply calling for a preservation of the status quo in the form of "stability," and "calm." Hope and change, in President Obama's world, otherwise seems restricted to America (and perhaps Libya and Egypt), while North Koreans are sadly stuck with stability.