The figure of Kim Jong-un is a somewhat complex one. On the one hand he is the totalitarian leader of a fascist regime, apparently poised on the brink of declaring nuclear war; on the other, his hair is a bit funny looking. It is this dichotomy which has come to characterise the North Korean leader, and perhaps explains why in general, our society perceives him as more Michelin Man than menace.
However, our trivialisation of the leader detracts us from the extent of his threat, given that the US has recently confirmed they believe Kim Jong-un capable of building and deploying a nuclear warhead. His role extends beyond that of a mere political puppet.
A quick Google search of the word ‘Kim’ leads one to a myriad of stories which focus on Kim Jong-un’s new haircut and bizarre public appearances. An entire Tumblr is devoted to ‘Kim Jong-un Looking at Things’. While much of this is undeniably funny, it is difficult to ignore the shocking reports which intersperse the images of Kim Jong-un: denial of personal freedoms, sexual violence, censorship, forced labour, but to name a few. Almost every conceivable infringement of human rights is occuring in North Korea, and yet our media focus more on his expanding waistline than his growing tyranny.
Such is the power of the media, a potentially deadly despot is turned into nothing more than a nationwide inside joke. A similar feat has been achieved by Boris Johnson, who has managed to convince the UK that he is a fumbling, floppy-haired fop rather than a cunning politician. If we take a step back, for all of Boris’ bumbling and green bike initiatives, he is in an actual fact an ardent Tory, holding a major political position. While Johnson is not currently sitting on any nuclear weapons, he demonstrates perfectly the pervasive effect of the media to present the powerful as a caricature. It is in essence the media who have trivialised Kim Jong-un, and have done so without considering the consequences.
The danger posed by Kim Jong-un is even more pressing considering the advancement in nuclear technologies.Should we really be making fun of the person whose finger is currently poised on the big red button – that could inflict a catastrpohic toll on humanity – whilst ignoring to immerse ourselves in the geopolitical realities, which may allow for such an event to take palce? his is without considering the atrocities which Kim Jong-un has committed against his own people,; the imprisonment of over 200,000 North Koreans in forced labour camps is anything but laughable. Despite the trail of destruction and oppression left in his wake, Kim Jong-un continues to be roundly lampooned by the Western media and reduced to nothing more than a caricature.
This is important in some respects, portraying a tyrant as nothing more than a tantrum-throwing toddler is one way to effectively undermine their regime, but ultimately, it is naïve to suggest that soley thtough laughter will this aggressive regime end. The best we as a public can hope for, is that our leaders see him for the jingoistic despot he really is, even if parts of our media cannot.