The United States was born in revolution, as some unruly colonists revolted against the world’s greatest power. The latter empire no longer is so great, but it retains a strange hold over Americans; witness the media frenzy when it was revealed that Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, is expecting a baby.
Another royal pregnancy and perhaps birth is also receiving attention: Ri Sol-ju, wife of North Korea’s Great Successor (and many other titles, even more than possessed by William) Kim Jong-un, may have been pregnant and, even more important, may have given birth.
Little is known about anything in the modern Hermit Kingdom, but rumors recently swirled both north and south of the border that Ri was pregnant. In December she was seen “wearing a billowing black dress that covered what appeared to be a swollen belly,” according to one Associated Press report. But the news service went on to report that “The seemingly pregnant belly sported by the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in mid-December appeared to be gone by New Year’s Day.”
This has created great excitement in South Korea. And if there is an appealing baby to go along with the more telegenic “Cute Leader,” we are likely to hear a new round of speculation about the likelihood that Kim is a committed reformer determined to pull his desperately poor, isolated, and repressive nation into the 21st century.
Unfortunately, this belief reflects the continuing triumph of desperate hope over depressing experience. Talk of economic liberalization so far has yielded few practical results. There is no evidence of political reform: The Workers Party of Korea, the North Korean communist party, appears to be exerting its control over the military, not relaxing its hold over the people. And Pyongyang actually has tightened border security to prevent escape across the Yalu River into China.
Some day the North’s bizarre system of monarchical communism will come to an end. Unfortunately there is no evidence yet that Kim Jong-un is an agent of “hope and change” for the North Korean people.