Kim Jong Il: I’m an Internet Expert!

According to the Associated Press, Kim Jong-il believes himself to be an “Internet expert.”

Is he an expert in the technology that powers the Internet, or an accomplished programmer? Does he think deeply about the social and economic implications of information and communications technology?

No, somehow I suspect he means that he’s accomplished in using the Internet. In other words, he writes emails, knows how to use a Web browser and a search engine, etc. In achieving this kind of expertise, Kim is in the company of close to 1 billion people worldwide.

Leaving aside for a moment the obvious gall involved in gloating about using the Internet while denying it to his own people, what kind of person brags about being expert in such widely dispersed knowledge?

I can think of one kind of person: a child. Children will walk up to a perfect stranger, pull on a pants leg and declare that they can spell their name, or draw a horse, or dribble a basketball. No doubt somewhere right now there’s an eight-year-old boasting about being an “Internet expert.”

This kind of self-satisfaction is charming and even necessary in children. In a dictator who is personally responsible for the daily privation and suffering of millions, it’s considerably less so.

Kim Jong-il’s former Japanese chef, Kenji Fujimoto, wrote a book about his experiences with Kim. The book, which was excerpted in the Atlantic Monthly in 2004, provides further evidence that Kim is a spoiled child who inherited a nation:

As I was riding a Jet Ski on a lake near the Chinese border, Kim Jong Il came up next to me and said, “Fujimoto, let’s race. But I want you to take it seriously.”

He gave the signal to start, and I rammed the accelerator as hard as I could. Halfway through I looked at him and realized that I was leading by about half a boat length. For a moment I thought I was making a mistake, but I remembered that he had said he wanted me to take the race seriously, so I crossed the finish line first.

Kim Jong Il said begrudgingly, “You win, Fujimoto.”

. . . Until then nobody else had ever won a contest against Kim Jong Il.

A month later he once again challenged me to a race. However, this time at the starting line I was surprised to see that he had traded his old Jet Ski for a much larger one. With a different engine capacity there was no way I could win.

At this time several areas in North Korea were suffering from floods and food shortages. Whether he was aware of this or not, Kim Jong Il certainly seemed to be enjoying his Jet Ski races.

And another example:

One day during a meal Kim Jong Il suddenly said, “Fujimoto, I’ve heard that in Japan there is a rice cake filled with mugwort. I want you to go and buy it tomorrow!”

In addition he told me to buy every brand of Japanese cigarette and to spend no more than three days on the trip.

I departed promptly [for Japan] . . .

What goes through the mind of a world leader like South Korea’s Roh when he suddenly realizes, in the midst of the elaborate summitry, the meticulous protocol, the weighty negotiations, what kind of stunted individual he is dealing with?

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