Here’s a rule any competent prophet knows: vagueness pays.
If you're forecasting something monumental, don't be too specific about the when it will materialize. Or at least put a lot of time between you and your vision, lest events don't transpire the way you foresaw them.
Kim Jong Il, who runs reclusive North Korea, is facing just this sort of predicament. At issue is a nation of 24 million people, many of them hungry and suffering.
Kim has predicted that on April 15, 2012, the "doors to the strong and prosperous state will swing open." This would emancipate the people from the hardship they had endured during the "arduous march" of the 1990s, when famine killed millions.
The prophecy dates back to the late 1990s. After the death of his father Kim Il Sung — the Generalisimo and Eternal President of the Republic — the younger Kim needed a slogan to define his reign, an era of hardship following the Soviet Union’s fall. A seminal editorial explained that the country was to build a strong military and a prosperous economy, in which "people live without envying other countries," according to author Jae Cheon Lim.
Kim must have known that the odds were against him. Still, he chose the 100th anniversary of his father’s birthday, April 15, 2012, as the auspicious date. And he stuck with it, often reminding his hapless subjects via state propaganda vehicles that better days would arrive. In its 2010 New Year’s editorial, North Korea used the “strong and prosperous state” term 19 times, according to the Daily NK, a news service staffed by defectors.
The trouble is, given the current state of North Korea, 365 days is an awfully tight deadline for accomplishing such a lofty goal. Sure, the military — with its handful of nukes — is strong enough for Kim to sink South Korea’s Cheonan warship and bomb Yeonpyeong island without retaliation.
Prosperity is another matter.
News recently emerged from Pyongyang, the capital, that Kim's regime executed four of its citizens in December. "The four people were reportedly shot in a vacant lot in front of the Seungho-ri Cement Factory," the Daily NK reported.
Their crimes? One stole oil from a transformer. Another took cables. A third nabbed 50 kilograms of corn, valued at less than $20. The crimes of the fourth were not clear. Not exactly the type of transgressions you’d encounter in Luxembourg or Singapore.
So what’s Kim doing to prepare his people for the auspicious date?
North Korea’s new 10-year plan “is mostly designed to allow the leadership to evade responsibility for failing to construct the strong and prosperous state,” according to the Daily NK. Rather than greasing the hinges to prepare for the opening of those prosperity gates, the government is now promising to build “the foundations from which to enter the front entrance of the strong and prosperous state.”
Meanwhile, Kim is requesting food aid. The United Nations estimates that as much as a quarter of the population is in dire need of food. And while nothing ever seems to change in North Korea, Kim Hyong O, a South Korean former senior politician said that “chronic strong and prosperous state fatigue syndrome” is pushing the downtrodden population toward a Mideast-style democracy uprising. “Elements threatening to the Kim family third generation succession are emerging everywhere.”
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