Sunday, July 13, 2014

Maggie and Kim: dear leaders?

Last night we watched The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep as the aging Margaret Thatcher. Say what you will about Maggie's politics, she was one tough woman. Streep portrays her brilliantly as a widow who hallucinates that her husband is still alive and who has moments when she flashes back to her glory days in Parliament. No one, but no one, ever pushed her around. When she was Prime Minister, she declared she had no interest in managing Britain's decline; her goal was to put the "Great" back in Great Britain.

The movie is a stark contrast to the memoir I just finished reading, Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee--A Look Inside North Korea by Jan Jing-sun. The author had been poet laureate for Kim Jong-il, which gave him the status of "Admitted," one of the very few people with the despot's blessing. In North Korea, no one is allowed to write anything, including poetry, unless officially directed to do so, and the only permissible poetry is praise of the Dear Leader. Jang was assigned to write an epic poem about Kim's glory, and at some point he and a friend had enough of the lies. They attempted a dangerous escape into China.

Thatcher was eventually challenged for leadership of her party, and she stepped down. Kim held absolute power until his death, as likely will his son Kim Jong-un.

I'm planning to write a review of Dear Leader for the Internet Review of Books. Meanwhile, the book and the Thatcher movie are well worth your time.