Kathryn, the North Korean report about Jang Song Thaek being eaten alive by over a hundred starving dogs plumbs new depths even for a regime capable of unlimited barbarism. As a form of political terrorism, though, it is brilliant, if it is true that Kim Jong Un made over 300 officials watch Jang and his small cadre be devoured by hunting hounds. There are purges and there is the icy cold terror of calculated madness. It’s unbelievable even to say this, but Stalin and his NKVD henchmen were “civilized” in comparison to this: show trials and bullets in the back of the head.
The only question is whether the message will backfire on Kim. The open knowledge of such barbarity might push some to risk trying to get rid of him before they get devoured themselves. As I wrote yesterday about today’s “I, Claudius” dictators, the usefulness of being underestimated only lasts until they show their true colors. Then, they have either dominated their opposition or make themselves a target. Whatever the case, it is hard to see how the rest of the world deals from now on with Kim as anything other than a monster. Any hope of gradual reform in North Korea, or a bloodless change of regime, is now a mere fantasy.