Having worked as a ghostwriter or co-writer for people ranging from comedians to fighters, Michael Malice has come up with a creative way to reveal the mind of the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Malice recently gave a brief summary of his new book, Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, at the libertarian think tank The Cato Institute. The premise is that, if Kim Jong Il were to honestly describe the totalitarian nightmare he ruled for decades, this is the story he would have told.
Malice felt that too often Americans, and the West in general, perceive the North Korean regime and its dictatorial leaders as akin to a “carnival.” However, he believes that notion does the North Koreans a great disservice by not taking the tyrannical North Korean leaders for who they really are: the leaders of the “least free nation on earth.” He said that his book addresses this concern to help clear up any of the misconceptions put forward by the Western media.
He said, referring to North Korean leaders, “They’re not crazy in a sense, they have an internal logic of their own.” In one of the most stark examples, Malice pointed out, “Kim Jong Il allowed 10% of his people to starve rather than let in the UN” to help stem the 1990s famine in North Korea. Malice felt that the current manner of Western media reporting on North Korea is “denying the humanity of 24 million people that are suffering enormously” and are dying “in a bloodbath.”
As the “lowest hanging fruit for the liberty movement,” Malice said that North Korea is “a huge symbol of the horrors of communism, the horrors of dictatorship and totalitarianism.” And, comparatively, “everyone in America is a libertarian vis a vis North Korea.” Although he could not interview the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, the father of current dictator Kim Jong Un, Malice was able to ghostwrite based on his experience visiting North Korea and doing his own research.
Regarding Western perception of North Korea, Malice said, “I think one of the biggest problems I had…is to fight this idea that North Korea is a carnival.” And sadly, “it has been fetishisized” by the media and marginalized an entire people. Because of this incorrect perception and focus, Malice decided to direct his book to focusing on “Kim Jong Il, the clown” to get his point across.
He quoted Ayn Rand, who was interviewed by a reporter during the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, when she told him that people in the free world do not understand how it is to live under a dictatorship. Malice said Americans are in a similar situation, where “most people in the West don’t understand” the intricacies and calculations of North Korea.
More and more, North Koreans “are increasingly aware” of their impoverished and poor state and their leaders are adjusting to that new reality. Now, government propaganda has shifted from the view that the world is jealous of North Korea to “yet we’re poor, but we’re building a better tomorrow.” In Malice’s words, it is “very difficult to convince people that they have more food on their plate than a year ago.” And, as word of mouth from China and South Korea (where dissidents have fled for refuge), the North Korean regime cannot stop the flow of information of life outside the country.
He acknowledged that Americans “know it’s oppressive” in North Korea, but we do not know the extent of their oppression. From his research, “Everyone is always watching each other, there is never a moment of peace” and the people smile “because they have a gun to their head.” To survive, North Koreans “have to parrot the views of the regime…[or] there will be very big consequences.” And, their method of punishment focuses on the family unit. “If you were punished for a crime, your entire family” would be punished as well. Even if “it’s not always a death sentence,” many never leave the labor camps once sent there.