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Pow! Bam! North Korea's a hit with evildoers

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Holy Toledo, Batman! The war on terrorism is starting to sound like a comic book.

First, President Bush took to calling the terrorists "evildoers" -- not without cause, because terrorists do evil things. The only problem with the word "evildoers" is that it's a bit melodramatic. "Evildoers" conjures up unintended visions of the Penguin and the Joker and other villains who curl their mustaches and twirl their capes in flamboyant and dastardly fashion.

Now the president has identified an Axis of Evil, comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Iraq is understandable, because it is home to Evildoing Hall of Famer Saddam Hussein. As for Iran, the mullahs who really control the country may not be quite on a par with the Mother of All Evildoing but still make a solid showing when it comes to doing a bit of evil.

But North Korea is something of a surprise. True, the North Koreans are said to be developing nuclear weapons, as much as their backwardness allows them to develop anything more sophisticated than a bicycle. Still, they did amuse themselves a few years ago by shooting a missile across Japan.

The credit for North Korea being included in the Axis of Evil must go to North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il, who proves the old adage that some are born to great evildoing and some have great evildoing thrust upon them.

Kim is in the former category. He was the "Dear Leader" when his old dad, Kim Il Sung, was still alive and functioning as the "Great Leader." How proud the old man would have been to see his son included among the world's evildoing greats!

Make no mistake: The Axis of Evil is a very prestigious group in the realm of evildoing. It's like belonging to the Duquesne Club or the New York Yacht Club in our capitalist context, institutions which only the most respected evildoers can ever hope to join.

But how did Kim Jong Il manage to lead his country to evil greatness, when prior to this he hasn't been able to inspire them to produce so much as a decent ham sandwich?

It may be because he's the class clown of the group. Every Axis of Evil seems to need one. You will recall that Hitler was an absurd character, but he was too sinister to inspire much thigh slapping. On the other hand, Mussolini provided comic relief at every turn.

Between Saddam and the Iranian mullahs, it's up to Kim to supply the levity.

Fortunately, he is up to the challenge. For evildoing bonus points, he is pleasingly pudgy, sports ill-fitting Mao suits and has hair that appears startled enough to have been treated with a kimchi tonic. All in all, a pretty wicked image. As teen-agers might say, he's positively evil.

Of course, it is possible Mr. Bush chose Kim's country for diversity reasons. (Why Mr. Bush gets to be the membership director of the Axis of Evil is not clear, but perhaps, being evil, they are too slothful to pick their own members.)

It's just not smart to have every evildoer on the Axis coming from the Middle East. Mr. Bush probably wanted to avoid offending the evildoing community (beyond, of course, threatening its destruction).

My own theory is that Kim has more political savvy than we give him credit for and has been working the old rubber chicken circuit to promote his candidacy.

He does it a bit differently, as I have been able to discover from my eclectic reading. The Yonhap News Agency in Seoul produces a little monthly magazine called Vantage Point, which keeps track of developments in North Korea.

The December issue listed Kim Jong Il's major public activities for the year 2001. He was a busy fellow last year, but, among his varied activities, an interesting pattern emerges. Consider the following dates on the list, which suggest a strange obsession:

Feb. 22: Visits a poultry farm on the outskirts of Pyongyang, together with the Chinese Communist Party mission. April 19: Makes an inspection visit to a fish farm. May 13: Visits a catfish farm built by Army Unit No. 534, three farms and the Yongsupo Beach resort. July 11: Visits a fish farm, a power station and a cooperative farm. Sept. 5: Visits a chicken farm in Pyongyang, named the Sept. 27 Chicken Factory. Nov. 10: Visits chicken farm No. 112, located in an east coastal area, following his visit there Nov. 2 last year.

Holy Toledo, Batman, this looks fishy. What wicked plot is this evil genius hatching?

Reg Henry's e-mail address is rhenry@post-gazette.com.

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