Kim Jong Un: Dictator as Troll

North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un is quickly proving to be, like his father Kim Jong-Il and grandfather Kim Il-Sung, adept at the art of trolling. His latest comments to military troops about potentially destroying a South Korean island and turn it into a “sea of fire” have American officials predictably jumping in response.

Top U.S. intelligence officials testified Tuesday that they’re “very concerned” the “belligerent” rhetoric out of North Korea could presage an attack on its southern neighbor.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, along with the heads of the CIA and FBI, delivered the intelligence community’s overview of global threats before the Senate Intelligence Committee. They were pressed on the recent and persistent warnings from Pyongyang, which just announced it was “completely scrapping” the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

Asked whether the regime could take “provocative action” that leads to hostilities with South Korea, Clapper said “absolutely.”

“The rhetoric, while it is propaganda-laced, is also an indicator of their attitude and perhaps their intent,” Clapper said. “I am very concerned about what they might do.”

Specifically, he warned of the possibility of “provocative action against the South.”

Sorry, I’m not buying it. Kim Jong-Un is doing what his father and grandfather did for decades, making outrageous remarks to show his people how strong he is. But on the list of things I worry about, a North Korean attack and impending war falls somewhere between losing a sock in the dryer and a Jefferson Starship reunion tour. He poses zero threat to the United States and not much more to South Korea.

If he did decide to attack South Korea, I don’t even think we would need to respond to it. I think China would yank his chain and maybe even remove him from power. They treat North Korea as a yappy little dog and that’s the way we should treat them as well. And there’s no way in hell China is going to risk a war with the United State over North Korea; there’s simply too much money at stake and they know it.

The man is a troll. And the only way to handle a troll is to ignore them. But America’s defense and intelligence community has a vested interest in responding to him and drawing attention to his propaganda. Doing so helps them keep Americans perpetually scared and thus supportive of continuing to spend more on “defense” than nearly every other country in the world combined.

"Basic gang psychology: start them with minor infractions of norms. They're easy enough to rationalize ..."

Trump Awkwardly Tries to Walk Back ..."
"Ah ,got a secret stack of them have you? Anyway i think you mean Elvin ..."

Christian Con Man Disproves Global Warming
"That's not fair, Modus. I'm sure that many (if not you) notice and consider it ..."

Judge Issues TRO Ending Deportation of ..."
"Naturalized citizens would be easy enough. Born in the USA? Probably easier to just destroy ..."

Judge Issues TRO Ending Deportation of ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • psweet

    I agree that an actual war with South Korea isn’t in North Korea’s best interest, but there are two points to remember. First, failing to take a real threat seriously is a much bigger mistake than taking a false one seriously. Second, we’re assuming that everyone involved is acting rationally. And while it may be true that China would yank him up short if anything happened, the military situation is such that a lot of South Koreans would die first — and that is something to be concerned about.

  • Randomfactor

    Given that some of the non-rationalists are American Republican politicians, I’m concerned about the outcome if one of NK’s trolling expeditions encounters the tripwire of American troops in Korea.

    I’m sure they’d much rather have a war in Iran, but they’d take North Korea (again) as a consolation prize.

  • David C Brayton

    Now if you had said a reunion of Night Ranger, I would have known you were full of shit.

  • Brandon

    While I agree with the basic sentiment, I’m wary of simply ignoring them. As psweet correctly notes in #1, the costs of ignoring them if they’re a real threat are orders of magnitude greater than paying attention if they’re not. Being the risk averse creature I am, and considering the massive damage that would come to the South Korean people in any war (the North Korean artillery on the border is impressive and dangerous, the last I’d checked), I’m inclined to say that treating him like a non-threat is a bad idea.

    Then again, feeding trolls never really ends well either.

  • matty1

    If he did decide to attack South Korea, I don’t even think we would need to respond to it. I think China would yank his chain and maybe even remove him from power.

    Ironically that might be best for the people of North Korea. The Chinese communists are still pretty unpleasant but we might see some improvements like a reduction in the likelihood of mass famine.

  • matty1, North Korea has no mass famine. They’re currently on a mass diet program. Once the country is light enough, it will lift up, tipping South Korea in to the sea, showing them (and the world) the greatness of Little Leader.

  • snoeman

    “…a Jefferson Starship reunion tour.”

    What an unpleasant thought that is. Thanks a lot. I’ll be awake all night now,

  • raven

    Reports of Cannibalism from North Korea | Cannibals and Famine in …

    www. livescience. com/26677-north-korea-cannibalism.html

    Jan 29, 2013 – Reliable reports from North Korea indicate starving residents of the rogue nation may be resorting to cannibalism.

    There have been recent reports of cannibalism in North Korea.

    Whether this is propaganda or true, well, who knows? Governments lie a lot about their opponents as we saw with Iraq and their weapons of mass destruction and cannibalism is a frequent and old slander against the others.

    I suspect any North Korean army advancing on the south would be halted at the first McDonalds.

    considering the massive damage that would come to the South Korean people in any war (the North Korean artillery on the border is impressive and dangerous,

    I’m inclined to take them seriously. As many pointed out, not taking a real threat seriously ends worse than taking a false threat seriously.

    But most third world armies are vastly overrated as we saw in Iraq. They are designed to keep unarmed civilians down and don’t do well against real militaries.

  • matty1

    They’re currently on a mass diet program.

    Would it be especially tasteless to point out that the Great Successor doesn’t seem to be joining in?

  • If he’s rational, he’s trolling, and thus no reason to worry too much about it. But he might not be rational or might not stay rational. He’s sitting in a chair with too much power over a nation. I think that means there’s a risk of him losing touch with the international reality.

    But, if he does go crazy and aggressive, yeah, I imagine he’d be gone shortly thereafter. I’d worry about what would fill the void, since I don’t naively think that improvement is the only option.

  • Given how close Seoul is to the border, some damage would certainly be done if a war broke out. But the South Koreans are prepared and the toll would probably be in the thousands instead of millions.

    That’s still horrible though, and worth preventing. Also we would have to respond, because we have a military alliance with South Korea and we’d need to keep our promises, if nothing else.

  • Sorry, I’m not buying it. Kim Jong-Un is doing what his father and grandfather did for decades, making outrageous remarks to show his people how strong he is.

    You do remember that Kim II shelled a SK town, with no provocation, killing at least a few civilians? I agree this is INTENDED to be standard crazy-sounding bluster to get everyone else stop trying to be reasonable and just give them what they want. But sometimes warlike rhetoric can take on a life of its own. We can’t just ignore this, any more than we could ignore Larry Farfromsane if he had a truckload of hand-grenades.

    Also, attacking SK isn’t all that stupid an idea now, given that the US is so totally tied down, both in the Middle East and by stupidity and gridlock at home.

    As for China, no, they would not just “yank his chain” — they’be more likely to watch what happens and see hos they could use it to their advantage. As in maybe “Sure, we’ll help you deal with NK if you just let us take Taiwan…”

  • jufulu

    I tend to agree that we should ignore him as one should any other troll. But then I wonder if he is stomping his feet and frothing to get the attention the he thinks is due him, what will he do if we ignore him? I know that is thinking about him as one a spoiled child, but still…..

  • erichoug

    I just finished Victor Cha’s book on North Korea “The Impossible State”, probably my 12th book on NK, and he actually talks a lot about this sort of provocation. It has a long history and is usually followed by a string of renewed negotiations with the North Koreans and almost always an aid package on conditions that the Kim family do blah, blah blah they aren’t going to do it anyway.

    But, there are two points that should be considered.

    1) In the event of resumption of hostilities, many military experts put the initial death toll in the range of 1 million deaths in the first hour. Seoul would almost certainly be burned off the map by the NK artillery arranged along the DMZ.

    2) From what I have read, the Chinese don’t really have a leash on NK. It is more like they want the Kim regime as a buffer from having another capitalist democracy on their borders, especially one that is so closely allied with the US.

    I don’t think we can really afford to not take the North Koreans seriously. Although if they did resume hostilities the US and South Korean forces would roll them back to the Chinese border in a matter of weeks. The cost in lives and property for what would be gained is not worth it.

  • Brain Hertz

    Trolls don’t typically have nuclear weapons…

    Although they can’t do it yet, there will almost certainly come a point some time in the next decade when they have the capability to drop one on the US. They’ve already demonstrated the ability to put something into orbit; that’s not a small feat. There are many problems to solve before that becomes a delivery system, but I don’t doubt that they will figure all of that out.

    As others have said, the strategy of just ignoring him is heavily predicated on the assumption that him (and/or others in the regime) can be counted on to be rational. I don’t think that’s a safe assumption.

  • slc1

    There is nothing wrong with North Korea that a half dozen 15 megaton bombs won’t cure in short order.

  • erichoug

    SLC1 @#16

    a half dozen of those would create quit a lot of side damage in Russia, China, South Korea, Japan etc. Check this bit out

    Frankly, I think the best bet would be targeted strikes against Kim Jong Un and senior regime figures. But, many people have outlined the fact that there really isn’t any of the basic organizations that could actually make regime change happen.

  • slc1

    Re erichoug @ #17

    The map at the link assumes an air blast. The effects, at least from blast and fireball would be much smaller if the device was designed to go off after ground penetration.

  • jamessweet

    Not that Kim Jong-* isn’t/wasn’t trolling… but I disagree slightly with your indifference. We know for certain that NK could easily lob a dirty bomb into Seoul (they’ve certainly got the missile tech to make it that far; and while their nuke test was unimpressive, it certainly demonstrated the capacity to release a lot of radiation real fast), and that day would be a Very Bad Day — not necessarily so much in the immediate humanitarian cost, but the global economic cost would be devastating.

  • fastlane

    slc1, many feel the same way about most of the middle east. Too bad about that collateral damage in Isreal, I guess.

  • Nick Gotts (formerly KG)

    I see slc1 is back to his genocidal wet dreams. Fortunately, the North Korean leadership are probably considerably less vile and more sane.

  • I’d love to see the US military budget cut in half, but I’d leave our expenditures for defending Korea alone.

    Would the US win a war with North Korea? Sure. The problem is that lots of South Koreans would die first. The North Korean government is like a guy who straps a bomb to himself to rob a bank. Probably he just wants the money (or foreign aid and similar concessions in North Korea’s case) and doesn’t actually want to blow himself up… but you still need to tread somewhat carefully.

    So go head, tell Germany and Japan that the Cold War is over, and they need to start picking up more of the tab for their military defense… but I’m for keeping our military presence in the Korean peninsula intact for the time being.

  • Rip Steakface

    I knew slc had never really disavowed his old ideas. Genocidal douchebag.

    Seriously, the government and military of the DPRK may be horrific, but no one deserves to be nuked. No one.

  • Nick Gotts (formerly KG)

    Fortunately, the North Korean leadership are probably considerably less vile and more sane rational.

    Apologies: I should not have associated people who have the misfortune to be insane with scum like slc1.

  • slc1

    Re fastlane @ #20

    My recommended nuclear attack is limited to Iran, which is the major threat in the area. There is no need to nuke or ever attack with conventional precision munitions anybody else in the Middle East. Iran is currently supporting the Hizbollah terrorists in Lebanon, the Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, and the Government of Bashar Assad in Syria. Cut off the head and the snake dies.

    Re Nick gotts @ #24

    Well ole Winston Churchill had no compunction about bombing civilians in Germany during the Second World War so I guess he was scum also.

  • lancifer

    This one goes out to slc1,

    No one likes us,

    I don’t know why

    We may not be perfect

    but heaven knows we try,

    But all around, even our old friends put us down

    Let’s drop the big one and see what happens

    We give them money but are they grateful?

    No, they’re spiteful and they’re hateful

    They don’t respect us so let’s surprise them

    We’ll drop the big one and pulverize them

    Asia’s crowded and Europe’s too old

    Africa is far too hot and Canada’s too cold

    And South America stole our name

    Let’s drop the big one,

    there’ll be no one left to blame us

    We’ll save Australia

    Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo

    (Dingo Jack, lucky for you)

    We’ll build an All American amusement park there

    They got surfin’, too

    Boom goes London and boom Paree

    More room for you and more room for me

    And every city the whole world round

    Will just be another American town

    Oh, how peaceful it will be

    we’ll set everybody free

    You’ll wear a Japanese kimono

    and there’ll be Italian shoes for me

    They all hate us anyhow,

    so let’s drop the big one now

    Let’s drop the big one now