North Korea's lunatic leader Kim Jong-il, who has hovered in the top ten of Parade Magazine's 'World's Worst Dictators' for as long as I can remember, had the dubious honor of being named 2011's number 1 the day before his death was announced.
This morning I picked up my Sunday Parade Magazine, and listed were this year's top ten. At the top of the list was Kim Jong-il. Followed by
2. Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea
3. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan
4. Bashar al-Assad, Syria
5. U Thein Sein, Burma (Myanmar)
6. Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (imagine having that name) Turkmenistan
7. Raul Castro, Cuba
8. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea
9. Hugo Chavez, Venezuela
I'm not sure what criteria is used for ranking, but over the years they have all at some point switched positions. Although these 10 certainly deserve to be on the list, there are plenty of others who definitely warrant joining them since they are all equally nasty. But as evil as they all are, Kim Jong-il was one of the more bizarre ones.
Jong-il, aka 'Dear Leader', 'Supreme Leader', 'the General', 'Generalissimo' and 'Our Father', was 69 when he apparently dropped dead on a train a few days ago. According to the BBC, the announcement on state television claimed he had died of '..physical and mental over-work', but as secretive as N. Korea is, the truth will probably never be known. His youngest son, Kim Jong-un, will take over leadership, and only time will tell whether Jong-un will continue the 'cult of personality' that began with Jong-il's dictator father, Kim il-sung.
I watched a fascinating documentary a few years ago about N. Korea (see part one below). Lisa Ling went undercover and exposed the grotesque manner in which Jong-il was revered and worshipped as a God. One of the most isolated and secretive countries in the world he has starved, tortured and kept his people in poverty, all the while living a lavish lifestyle. He is said to have deposited 4 billion dollars in banks in Luxembourg, just in case. A hedonist, he regularly chomped on lobster (with silver chopsticks), airlifted big macs from China, had 10,000 bottles of alcohol in his cellar, and had his personal chefs (many of whom were kidnapped and eventually fled) fetch caviar and other delicacies from around the world. And yet his people starved.
And Jong-il was used to getting what he wanted. An ardent film buff, he actually kidnapped a South Korean director and his actress wife in the late 1970s to create propaganda films for the 'Dear Leader'.
Not that things could get any worse for the N. Koreans under his son, but one can hope they get better. Though I doubt it. His children are all probably very happy living the good life, and like Jong-il continued his father's legacy, I'm sure Jong-un will continue his daddy's. With nuclear capabilities, this evil, mad dictator won't be missed.
UPDATE: 50 bizarre facts about Jong-il and N. Korea