2 LEAD­ERS

New Straits Times - - World -

John Delury, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Yon­sei Uni­ver­sity here.

Kim’s fa­ther and pre­de­ces­sor Kim Jong-il had groomed his son to take his place at the top of Py­ongyang’s political pyra­mid for years be­fore his death in 2011.

For his part, Trump reached the White House via a ca­reer in prop­erty de­vel­op­ment and re­al­ity tele­vi­sion, fol­lowed by an un­prece­dent­edly pop­ulist elec­tion cam­paign that up­ended the US political es­tab­lish­ment.

While Kim was a youth­ful in­genue when he came to power — and re­mains among the world’s youngest lead­ers — he has now held of­fice for sev­eral years, while Trump, a grand­fa­ther in his 70s, is in his first political post.

“It’s a weird sit­u­a­tion where he is much more ex­pe­ri­enced than Trump, who is twice as old as him,” says Delury.

Kim “prob­a­bly thinks he’s go­ing to be around af­ter Trump is gone”, he points out.

“Be­cause he’s the heir of what ap­pears to be a pretty sta­ble, dy­nas­tic state means he has a longer time hori­zon than most peo­ple.”

And with a uni­ver­sally loyal me­dia in the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea, as the North is of­fi­cially known, and no so­cial me­dia, Kim has no need to con­cern him­self about to­mor­row’s head­lines, or re­spond to them on Twit­ter.

Both men “prize loy­alty”, says Delury, and are will­ing to em­ploy “a high level of flux in per­son­nel to en­sure that it’s their peo­ple who are run­ning the sys­tem. That’s a com­mon­al­ity be­tween Kim and Trump.”

They also both de­ploy rel­a­tives in govern­ment. Dy­nas­tic de­scent from the North’s founder Kim Il­sung is the ba­sis of Kim’s per­sonal le­git­i­macy — Py­ongyang’s pro­pa­ganda pro­motes the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween them in looks, man­ner­isms and even hand­writ­ing — and mem­bers of the Kim fam­ily hold in­flu­en­tial po­si­tions.

In Wash­ing­ton, Trump’s daugh­ter, Ivanka, is an as­sis­tant to the pres­i­dent, her hus­band Jared Kush­ner is a close ad­viser, and Trump’s son, Don­ald Jr, has been em­broiled in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged Rus­sian in­flu­ence in last year’s elec­tion.

“Fam­ily pol­i­tics are for­malised in the North Korean sys­tem but it’s been in­tro­duced through the Trump fam­ily in a way that’s un­nerv­ing to some Amer­i­cans”, says Delury.

“There’s an­other anal­ogy there.”

Now, the two sides are locked in a cy­cle of threat and coun­terthreat, with Py­ongyang re­veal­ing a plan to send a salvo of mis­siles to­wards the US Pa­cific ter­ri­tory of Guam.

North Korea has been is­su­ing hy­per­bolic threats for decades, such as turn­ing the city here into a “sea of fire” — one re­cent aca­demic analysis of its lan­guage was ti­tled “Turn­ing it up to Eleven”.

Py­ongyang sees it­self as de­fi­antly fac­ing down the men­ace from Wash­ing­ton, and any­thing fit­ting into that nar­ra­tive bol­sters the regime’s claim to le­git­i­macy.

At the same time, Trump has the­atri­cal in­stincts.

“This is the WWF part of Trump, re­al­ity TV, where each day is like a mini-show, and you need a foil, you need an en­emy, you need a sense of drama and a good guy and bad guy, all these clas­sic el­e­ments of pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ment.” AFP

Kim Jong-un and Don­ald Trump both de­ploy rel­a­tives in govern­ment.

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