North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, behaves so much like a cartoon villain that many Americans have started to see him that way. Yet news this month brought a fresh reminder that for all Kim’s oddball antics — feting former NBA star Dennis Rodman, presiding over kitschy military parades right out of a James Bond movie — he has proved every bit as ruthless and oppressive as his father, Kim Jong Il.
According to reports in a South Korean newspaper, Kim’s regime executed the dictator’s ex-girlfriend earlier in August, along with 11 others, reportedly for making a sex tape and possessing Bibles. Of course, human rights abuses are nothing new in North Korea. Yet the 29-year old Kim is so over the top in his antics that he’s become something of a comic fixture in the West. He’s a regular punchline in The Onion’s satirical stories. The diminutive dictator’s relentless pursuit of nuclear missiles has also invited endless jokes about overcompensating; a failed missile test last year gave rise to a predictable tide of snickering on social media.
One could view the mockery as a way of taking Kim down a peg, but it trivializes the gravity of North Korea’s plight. Maybe his latest abuses will focus the world’s attention on the reality of Kim’s dystopian kingdom.