So I came across an interesting post online, earlier last week. It stated that the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un, was sending his girl-band to China to perform at a week-long soiree. This was in order to strengthen relations with China (before a critical deliberation on Pyongyang’s human rights record, which is coming up before the United Nations). China is North Korea’s main ally; and the chosen tool to strengthen (and soften) relations with its neighbor, was music! Hmmm, sometimes, if the issues relating to North Korea and its erratic leader were not so serious, they would be comical! I mean, is this the tyrant’s idea of “soft diplomacy” at work? The sharing and show-casing of “culture”- whatever that means for Pyongyang- maybe? But then, when one reflects on the fact that in-between watching his people die from starvation , his country become more alienated in the comity of nations, while also maintaining tyranny and autocracy, and sentencing anyone who is deemed a threat (whether real or imagined) to his regime to the harshest punishment (including death); that Kim Jong-Un can still find time (and indeed possess the state of mind) to put together a pop band- whose name I cannot remember now- and send them to perform in Beijing, one is simply left flabbergasted…in addition to being completely outraged! Anyway, the performance was eventually cancelled- after the girls had already made their way to China- for reasons still not so clear, but which may have something to do with the announcement made by Kim Jong-Un that North Korea has developed a hydrogen bomb! But let us proceed. North Korea has been ruled by the same family since it was “founded” by Kim Il-Sung (Jong-Un’s grandfather). Then from Il-Sung, it passed down to his son Kim Jong-Il, before being passed down to the present Kim, upon his father’s (Jong-Il) death. In other words, since it was founded, North Korea has been passed down from father-to-son, like it was some “family heirloom” which was not to be “shared” by outsiders! Now, how does one even begin to describe North Korea as a country? How much information do we- the outside world- have about life in this extremely secretive state? Much of the information we have, is that which we have received from defectors who have fled- under very dangerous conditions- to the South, or elsewhere. Their stories have not been rosy. Countless numbers of defectors have relayed in great detail, the harrowing experiences they faced in North Korea, before they fled. Food shortages, lack of necessary infrastructural amenities, no access whatsoever to the outside world, close monitoring of citizens by the authorities, persecution by the few elites…all the while living in constant fear of the brutal regime, and with the very real fear of the outbreak of war at any given time! All these and much more, are what the average North Korean citizen faces over the course of his/her lifetime. And as Japan receives one “ghost-ship” after another in recent times”- “ghost-ships” bearing the decomposed bodies of people thought to be North Korean defectors who fled while masquerading as fishermen- the dire situation within that country has been thrust in the public’s consciousness, once again. Have you ever seen a video-clip of what life in North Korea looks like? Well, some months earlier, CNN’s Will Ripley was amongst the few journalists who were given a “guided tour” of Pyongyang. Of course, the only trouble with these “once-in-a-blue-moon media extravaganzas” is that they are nothing more than charades- highly publicized events put together by the regime, to try and fool the rest of the world! Everything is staged. The people appear like robots, reading out of a script given to them by the regime. The journalists are only given access to “previously-selected individuals”, and also given guided tours of “selected places”. Nothing happens impromptu, and everyone- I mean every North-Korean citizen- praises Kim Jong-Un. The people appear as puppets…they bow before images of the 3 Kim’s, while calling them everything from “savior” to “hero”…they wear similar styles of clothing and would not dare wear blue jeans, because it is seen as a representation of Western values! In fact, everything in North Korea screams “bondage”, “servitude” and “slavery”. But I guess one cannot expect differently, when one takes into consideration the fact that the country has been led- and continues to be- by the same family of “lunatics”! So, “music diplomacy”? Yeah, I had to “coin” that term, to describe this unique situation. Dennis Rodman, Kim Jong-Un’s “dear friend”, has already delivered to us, “basket-ball diplomacy.” But wouldn’t it be wonderful if Kim Jong-Un takes a much different approach? If he tries improving relations with his neighbors on the South, and with the rest of the world for that matter…if he tones down his continued declarations of (nuclear) war…if he works to strengthen economic relations with other nations, and thus alleviate the suffering within his country…if he gave his people the free-will to “choose” their own leaders- I mean, if they love him as much as he claims, then surely he would have no fear of losing in any “credible” election…if he stopped being such an “ass”! Now, how’s that for diplomacy? Wishes…wishes…and more wishes! Beggars are not yet riding! Funny though, “music diplomacy” may just be a rather “apt” description of his relationship-skills, based on his persona- or, what I perceive his persona to be. You see, in my mind, I can actually visualize Kim Jong-Un as the “deranged conductor of some third-world country orchestra”, than as the statesman and leader that he tries (so hard) to portray himself as! Oh, I forgot; it’s a pop-group. Okay, then I can more readily visualize him as some “wannabe Simon Cowell”- minus the looks and brain though! In any case, as Kim Jong-Un’s “girls” made their way to Beijing to serenade their audience with their melodious voices, I found myself wishing them success- not so they could make their “leader” look slightly better to the outside world, but so they wouldn't face severe punishment when they returned home, if their performance was deemed to be sub-par by the Pyongyang regime! In any case, they don't have to worry about that anymore- for now. In the end though, whether the performance is canceled entirely; or whether there may be future re-scheduling plans, i guess the “Sound of Music” will always be much better than the “Sound of War”!