Lots of scuttlebutt on the Kim Jong Il in China front, but hey! Heed these two little lines which no else seems to be talking about…
1. Kim Jong Il is not on the way to the PRC, but instead he met today with the Chinese ambassador in Pyongyang! (News from the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang) Fortunately Chinese netizens are commenting already, reminding everyone that “friendship with North Korea” entails dealing with a “hooligan country,” and using pinyin to call Kim a “ducaizhe” (dictator). Hmm. China continues to disable its censorship mechanism when it comes to the great Kim family. Perhaps the female chorus from Tianjin arriving in Pyongyang for a performance makes up for the slight?
2. North Korea is turning up the heat on another cultural offensive in China, promising a tour of the opera “Dream of the Red Chamber” across the PRC. If the old folks in Shenyang don’t like this, what will they like? (Never underestimate the power of the Medicare/Iron Rice Bowl demographic in Northeast China for justifying aid to the DPRK!)
3. A delegation of movie specialists from North Korea is on tour in China, including the director of the North Korean film “Diary of a Schoolgirl” (never heard of it, but it probably involves resisting South Korean pop music — KCNA recently had a dispatch on a new film all about how the army gets along with the people in the countryside — a sure sign that the KPA is in danger of turning into a bunch of marauders in far-off places like Ryanggang).
It could be that it’s been a very “West Coast” day for me, rolling through the rain, being on boats, and flipping radios from Garrison Keillor (today broadcasting from the lip of Capitol Hill in Seattle) into a sudden joy-sparking salient of Tupac Shakur, and then (bedomed with Bach in a faux-Gothic arch) cello resonance giving way a discussion with a brilliant random stranger about robin vs. gull song heaves and Handel/Bach rivalries, but all this Sino-NK news — where “friendship” oscillates with veiled intimidation — is just very, very gangster.