Caricaturing Kim Jong Il as Irrational after Kim Il Sung’s Death and Toxic Inter-Korean Dynamics

My colleague, Antonio Betancourt, made these valuable points to me about the perception of Kim Jong Il after he assumed power in July 1994, which I have lightly edited:

Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il“In discussing the missed opportunities of the ROK in July 1994, President Kim Young Sam was a victim of the major misinformation machine created by the South Korean government under his administration and previous ones that twisted the image of Kim Jong Il into an unrecognizable caricature, of a leader who was ‘insane’ and did not have the rational capacity to be taken seriously by either the South Korean government or the U.S., China and Russia — of course, although they did not consider Kim Jong Il a brilliant statesman and did not accept the picture painted of him by the ROK. This type of characterization, a caricature of a demon, did not serve in the long run the interests of the ROK or the U.S. Instead, it created the foundation for very difficult and toxic dynamics after Kim Jong Il took power.

The interesting thing is Kim Jong Il surprised both the ROK and the U.S. He proved himself to be a formidable tactician and strategic negotiator behind all the complicated diplomacy that followed his assumption of power in the DPRK following the death of his father, Kim Il Sung. This proved how wrong were all the intelligence reports about him, which were based on a deliberate effort to create an image of a mad, psychotic man with power.”♦