Chances are, the first time you heard of our HBO show was when news outlets around the world reported that we took Bad-as-I-Wanna-Be NBA Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman to North Korea, along with members of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters, to take on the Hermit Kingdom’s national team in a friendly, if entirely absurd, experiment in basketball diplomacy. As you probably know, the enigmatic young ruler of the country, Kim Jong Un, showed up to the game, making us the first American news organization to meet him. It was pretty much the most thrilling thing that could have happened, and when pictures were beamed back to Brooklyn that day, the poured-concrete floors of our offices rippled in cracks and dents as our jaws collectively hit the floor.
North Korea Is Open for Business (Sort of) - The Hermit Kingdom Wants Unity and Peace with South Korea
If North Korea didn’t exist, all those Kremlinolgists who were made redundant at the end of the Cold War would be lost without a trail of mystic socialist smoke-signals to semi-religiously divine meaning from. But luckily it does—Hooray!—so for now at least we can keep staring deep into Kim Jong Un’s pudgy, crystal-ball shaped head and continue second-guessing the obscure intentions of the eccentric, autocratic regime that built its people a world-class dolphinarium before it gave them a decent set of roads.
Yesterday Kim, now the world’s youngest leader, broke the silent tradition of his reclusive father and made a New Year’s speech to the people of North Korea, filling them in on his plans for a totally awesome 2013. It was the first time the country has been addressed directly by one of its autocratic czars in almost 20 years, and it seems the gesture was appreciated. The country’s recent rocket launch on December 12 captured the imaginations of the global media and gave North Korean morale an interstellar boost. Despite rumors that the satellite, after making it into orbit, hasn’t been functioning, Kim still felt emboldened enough to let the metaphor of space exploration underscore his rhetoric for a year of new frontiers back here on Earth.
He even gave 2013 a long and clumsy space-themed slogan: “Let us bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant with the same spirit and mettle as we displayed in conquering space!” Now, not to be a party pooper or anything, but it took China two decades to turn around its backward peasant economy into the global economic powerhouse it is today, so as North Korea analyst Stephen Haggard pointed out, any talk of miraculously becoming the next Hong Kong, Singapore, or *whisper it* South Korea in just one year is little more than the excited talk of an overly enthusiastic young man whose dad gave him the keys to a clapped-out old banger of a nation before he’d even learned how to drive.