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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea Should Bury Stalinist Past

In the three days that followed the death of Kim Il-sung, more than 17 million North Koreans -- out of a total population of 22 million -- took part in public mourning rites to mark the demise of the Great Leader. The entire nation is prostrate with grief; its only comfort the secure knowledge that the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, will continue to follow his father's socialist path.


That's what the North Koreans say, anyway. It's what the world would expect them to say, having heard little else but such meaningless drivel from this Stalinist state for nearly half a century.


What is remarkable is that they are still saying it. Stalin has been dead for more than 40 years, officially discredited and reviled by many in his own country for almost as long. The regime that spawned North Korea has itself passed into history and Russia has found a niche in the democratic world. Yet Pyongyang goes on insisting that black is white, day is night, wet is dry.


Does it matter? First of all it must matter to 22 million North Koreans -- particularly the five million odd who presumably did not take part in official mourning -- who are excluded from the modern world and condemned to a life of repression, drudgery and unsurpassable boredom.


For the rest of us, it began to matter when North Korea started to make advances in its nuclear weapons program. It is not a question of whether they have got the bomb or not; the suspicion that they just might is alarming enough.


For the veterans of the Korean War it matters too, which was why there was such an uproar over President Bill Clinton's token condolence message. Diplomatic protocol demands such gestures, however insincere, and with the outcome of the nuclear dispute in the balance, Clinton could not afford to give offense.


Such considerations did not trouble Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who took the trouble to call at the North Korean Embassy in Moscow to sign the book of condolences and sing the praises of the totalitarian state.


One can only guess as to Zhirinovsky's motives, which would appear to have more to do with self publicity and a need to outrage his critics than with any sincerity on his part. It is unlikely to have earned him many votes. Even among Zhirinovsky's most demented supporters, there would be few looking to North Korea for a model Utopia.


Kim Il-sung's funeral will be held Sunday and in true North Korean style it will be a huge stage-managed and choreographed occasion. One hopes it will be the last of its kind, for surely now that the Great Leader has gone, the regime he created should also be consigned to history.