Today brings an interesting answer to that age-old question: How do murderous dictators endear themselves to members of their adoring/oppressed public (beyond the usual death threats, endless propaganda reels, and incredible displays of nationalistic pride like this one)?
North Korea‘s Kim Jong-un takes a novel approach to the challenge of better serving the people who never directly supported him in the first place: today his nation’s state-run media let the world know that he sent every single North Korean child 2.2 pounds of candy in celebration of his own mysterious birthday (no one can agree on his age).
While this tradition is unusual, it’s nothing new: it began with the current dictator’s own grandfather. The logic behind the strategy is perverse, but we have no doubt that these yearly gift baskets serve as bright spots for the citizens of a nation as restricted and suppressed as North Korea.
Now we’re curious about Google‘s “don’t be evil” co-founder Eric Schmidt, who arrived in the world’s evil-est country today alongside former New Mexico governor and United Nations ambassador Bill Richardson. What’s he doing there, exactly?
Richardson hopes to begin negotiating the release of American citizen and current political prisoner Kenneth Bae, but Schmidt’s goals aren’t so clear. While he claims that the purpose of his visit is to explore “economic” and “social media” issues (the vast majority of North Koreans have no Internet access), we wonder whether he’s really just interested in stealing some of that sweet, sweet candy.
In other news, last week the very same state news agencies reported that Kim Jong-un’s barely-known wife had given birth to his first child, confirming the long-term security of his legacy. While no one seems to believe the story, we’d say he’s got all his PR bases covered.
And on a final note, anyone interested in North Korean culture should check out the fascinating British documentary “A State of Mind“, which follows two young girls training to participate in the nation’s famous Mass Games ceremonies.