Kim’s Dream

“ I have a dream,” proclaimed Martin Luther King Jr. in August 1963. And when that dream came true the United States became the better country for it. A country that caters to the civil rights of its citizens regardless of race.

“I have a dream,” says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. And if that dream comes true the United States will cease to exist as we know it today. Its greatest city, New York, arguably the financial capital of the world, will go up in radioactive smoke.

Here’s how the Kim dream plays on YouTube: A young man dreams he is on a space shuttle hovering over the world. He sees a Korean peninsula in the rhapsody of unification. The scene cuts to the wreck of a city, with Manhattan landmarks, and an American flag for backdrop, in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Korean subtitles say: “I see black smoke billowing somewhere in America. It appears that the headquarters of evil … is going up in flames it itself ignited.”

I saw a grainy version of the video picked up by a news website. The original has been pulled offline because of copyright complaints: It stole a scene from a feature film and pinched the background music from Michael Jackson.

The video concludes with the message: “This dream will come true.” Don’t you believe it. There’s no lack of propaganda on the Internet about the capability of North Korean missiles to incinerate the United States, but if you buy that, there’s a bridge in the Sahara Desert I want to sell you.

Still, Asian diplomats are suffering nightmares because of the context of the dream. Last December, North Korea sent an object into orbit, using a long-range rocket. The international community deemed that a disguised missile test, and heaped condemnation and new sanctions on the hermit kingdom.

This time China acceded to the sanctions. A Chinese newspaper warned if Kim did it again, China would reduce its aid to North Korea. That’s a stark threat. Indonesia, although keen to keep North Korea engaged, also voiced its condemnation.

Not cowed at all, Kim gave the screw another turn. He announced North Korea would soon conduct another nuclear test. Hence, in Japan, pacifism wanes and the advocates of rearmament are out in force. South Korea girds for armed conflict and goes into live fire exercises with a nuclear-armed US navy. The new US Secretary of State, John Kerry, says North Korea will not go unpunished if it carried out the test.

There’s a silver lining to the war clouds gathering on the horizon: Kim’s antics are pushing China closer to the position of South Korea, Japan and the US on the nuclear issue. And China is getting a chance to play the constructive role of peace advocate, as it reins back its “naughty boy.”

Kim, of course, is playing the nuclear card to consolidate power and perpetuate his regime. But he can’t play that game forever. He must buckle down some time and address the famine stalking the countryside. Indonesia has helped by sending over food aid worth $2 million. But nothing helps as much as the regime getting down to work.

Besides, there’s a new revolutionary force in North Korea. The famine has sprouted a new breed of traders, providing the nation, through the black market, a window to the prosperous world outside. These illegal but indestructible merchants will undermine the regime in the long run and could occasion its demise.

Unless Kim Jong-un turns out to be a reformer and modernizer after he has consolidated power, I haven’t given up on him.

Then he’ll have to embrace this underground economy. And heed China’s prod to dream the capitalist dream, which China itself dreamed and realized.

That beats dreaming of nuclear mayhem.

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