Jimmy Carter Gets Dissed by North Korea
Jimmy Carter seems to be getting dissed by North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong-il. Like Jesse Jackson, Carter is something of a connoisseur of Third World kleptocrats. He’s rarely met one that he didn’t want to cozy up to and embrace. But this time he may be disappointed.
Carter showed up at the North’s invitation to negotiate–in other words, beg for–the release of an American hostage. But as the Los Angeles Times puts it, “In a trip shrouded in mystery and speculation, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il traveled to China by train with his youngest son, according to two South Korean government officials.”
My take: It’s good to see that filial piety is still a priority in North Korea. Kim may specialize in nabbing American hostages–he used to focus on kidnapping young Japanese female film stars for his seraglio–but he is adhering to Confucian traditions in upholding family values. He wants to make sure that Kim Jong-un gets his.
Speculation about the motives for the trip have been rife. Is Kim trying to win Chinese approval for his son’s probable ascension as the North’s new “dear leader,” arguing, as Carter once did in his memoir, why not the best? Does he wants some fancy new weapons? Or does recent flooding mean that he wants some more food imports?
But a simpler theory may obtain. What if Kim just got a bad case of what might be called invitation remorse? The prospect of meeting Carter seems to have petrified Kim, who hotfooted it for China. Maybe Carter can keep North Korea from doing anything crazy as long as he hangs out in Pyongyang. At a minimum, it may encourage Kim and his son to stay in China for awhile and continue bonding with each other. I mean, some fathers hand over estates or corporations to their family. But how many sons get taken by their old man in train rides to arrange the handover of an entire country?