No sooner has Jimmy Carter arrived in Pyongyang to negotiate for a low-level American hostage than Kim Jong Il is reported to be in China’s northeastern Jilin province.
This trip, if it turns out to be true, would be logical only in the sense that the putative successor Kim Jong Eun, by traveling into Manchuria, could be then said to better understand the mystical connection which his grandfather and father both had in the region. Kim Il Song was educated at the school where Kim Jong Il visited, and North Korean diplomat Kim Yongyi was also there this past February. The school’s website has no acknowledgment of the visit, but it does have a sweet Fen-Fen style sword on its homepage exhorting good preparation for the gaokao. Clearly the school has a kind of talisman-like quality for the regime in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il also attended school in Jilin province for two years during the Korean War, but far less is known about that connection.
In last week’s Arirang festival for Chinese audiences in Pyongyang, one of the human flash cards did specifically praise Kim Il Song’s time in Manchuria, with the implication that it helped him to become a better leader of the North Korean revolution and also in his understanding of China. (I viewed the pictures fresh from the North Korean tour operators in Dandong; unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to make copies.)
Finally, a trip through Ji’an could connect the Kim family with the Koguryo tombs in that city, but it’s doubtful that the CCP would allow for this to happen.
The Chinese media has now picked up the Kim-in-China story, but in very, very strange ways. The Huanqiu Shibao leads its website with a short item headlined “韩媒称在华访问；朝鲜大使馆称不知情 [South Korean Media Reports that Kim Jong Il is On a Visit to China; North Korean Embassy Says it Doesn't Know Clearly].”
The story is then juxtaposed with this long piece about the Kim family which allegedly dates from June 2009 (when Kim Jong Eun was first rumored to have been in Beijing) which is hardly complementary toward the Dear Leader.
Moreover, the Huanqiu Shibao front page draws readers to a comment made by Kim Jong Il nearly three months ago stating that “North Korean socialism is situated in an invincible position /朝鲜社会主义位于不败之地.”
The netizen comments affixed to these stories are covered in scorn for Kim Jong Il. China is not extending a welcoming hand in its propaganda for Kim Jong Eun or his father.
Finally, thanks an e-mail from the talented Chris Green over at Daily NK, I became aware of this editorial from People’s Daily. It is a must read; in sum with the other available evidence in Chinese, I can only assume that this harsh editorial is a way for China to both reassure North Korea that China does not want immediate and radical change on the peninsula and will stand up for them militarily, but that collective, mature, leadership is truly needed in North Korea, not the continuation of a stultifying personality cult system of family leadership.
Much, much more to come as this story unfolds…