The precocious Kim Jong Un
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North Korea is truly the land of opportunity and advancement, where a lad in his 20s of no great distinction or education can ascend effortlessly to the highest offices in the land.
It helps to be named Kim and be the son and grandson of ruthless dictators Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, who starved millions and enslaved millions more to make North Korea safe for their unprepossessing descendant, Kim Jong Un.
Young Kim this month was named marshal of the Democratic People's Republic, in effect the country's top military official. Mr. Kim's father, who died Dec. 18 at the age of 69, had the foresight to make his son a four-star general just under two years ago so the youngster could get a little military experience under his belt.
Mr. Kim replaced Ri Yong Ho, who was reportedly dismissed because of illness. Poor Mr. Ri probably didn't even know he was sick.
Technically, this wasn't a promotion for Mr. Kim because he was already supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, an honor he reached 12 days after his father's death. But a true dictator can never have too many titles.
In April, continuing his meteoric rise through the ranks, Mr. Kim became first chairman of the National Defense Commission, the equivalent of our joint chiefs of staff. In that post, he technically reports to his father, who, as far as we know from that secretive little land, is still dead, but whom the People's Assembly named "chairman for eternity."
Among Mr. Kim's other military achievements, he is also chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, which is like being chairman simultaneously of the U.S. House and Senate armed services committees without the pesky encumbrance of senators and House members.
Staggering under the weight of even more honors, Mr. Kim is first secretary of the Workers' Party, akin to simultaneously being chairman of the Republican and Democratic national committees, again without the obstacles of having actual Democrats and Republicans. But there, too, the organizational chart has him reporting to the still-dead Kim Jong Il, who was named "eternal general secretary."
For what it's worth, Mr. Kim is also one of five members of the Politburo, the cabal that relieves the members of the ruling Workers' Party of the need to make decisions.
Not a bad resume for someone who's been leader of the country for only seven months.
Mr. Kim is clearly the beneficiary of his father and grandfather's governing philosophy of "songun," meaning the military comes first. The military has a strength of 1.2 million in a nation of 25 million people, but consumes 25 percent of its gross domestic product and has substantial interests in arms sales, real estate and other lucrative businesses.
With the military stuffed with cash and Mr. Kim laden with honors, there's only one legacy of his father's still to shoot for: the title of world's greatest golfer.
In 1994, in the one time he played golf, Kim Jong Il made 11 holes-in-one in the process of shooting a 38-under-par 34 over 18 holes. It had to be true because the feat was witnessed and attested to by Kim's 17 bodyguards.
Having attained golf's top honor, Kim Jong Il retired from the game. Now that Young Kim is supreme commander, generalissimo, first chairman and first secretary, he should consider retiring to concentrate on his golf game. If only.
First Published July 25, 2012 12:00 am