Donald Trump is execrated for doing incalculable damage to the White House and the idea of America, but the havoc he has wrought in foreign parts remains insufficiently denounced. The latest outrage is the humanising of North Korean president Kim Jong-un, a crime against humanity which has robbed the world of the simple pleasure of laughing at a maximum leader. The series of events which started with Trump’s nuclear face-off with Kim, and which swerved into a thaw between the two Koreas at the Winter Olympics in Seoul, has now brought a smile to his face at a rare girl-band concert in East Pyongyang’s magnificent Grand Theatre. This is the end of the Kim that the world loves to lampoon.
Of course, we have seen Kim laugh before. He has laughed while inspecting ballistic missile warheads, and laughed it off when they fell into the sea. Cuing demonic laughter, he has announced North Korea’s development of a hydrogen bomb. In the course of factory visits, for which he has an insatiable appetite, Kim has laughed at noodles and buns, and weird gunk uncoiling like alien excrement from the outlet pipe of the Chonji Lubricant Factory. And eerily, he has laughed at babies. And children’s school bags. And children’s bootees, too. But that was the laughter of a tinpot dictator. It was part of the pattern and comfortingly reinforced the caricature.
But Kim and the first family’s enthusiasm for the performance by South Korean K-pop band Red Velvet in Pyongyang has caused the scales to fall from the eyes. This was a real, human reaction, and it rendered inhuman the world’s former mirth at Kim’s expense. A golden era of satire is over. Now, we must wait for the the human race to throw up another hilarious maximum leader. Humanity will not disappoint.