I know the tendency in conservative circles is to dance on the grave of deceased Communist dictators. (I fondly remember then-House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich buying a round of drinks at the Hawk’n'Dove in Jan. 1990 the night Nic Ceausescu fell to a firing squad). That said, it’s still human nature to pause for a moment and grieve for the deceased. “But for the grace of God,” Newt used to say, “Might I have wound up an authoritarian socialist madman.”
So it was with a slight pang of regret that I read about the death of North Korea’s Dear Leader, Kim Jung Il. I only met Kim once, as a non-partisan consultant when Bill Clinton went to Pyongyang to free those pretty TV journalists.
It was a tense couple of days, but if I remember one thing, it’s that the food we were served was simply excellent. The galbee was exquisitely tender cuts of beef shortrib, and the kimchee was pungent, without being so spicy as to mask the delicate flavor of the pickled cabbage. One of the Korean generals whispered to me that the Dear Leader was a fan of “Iron Chef” and had once briefly considered kidnapping Masaharu Morimoto to serve as his personal chef. I suggested we’d happily give them Bobby Flay in trade for the journalists.
Like most other pundits I know, I approach the coming weeks with trepidation about the fate of North Korea, and no small desire to speak about the few small facts we have about Kim Jung Il’s son, Kim Jong Un (or as he’s known on the Pyongyang street, “Lil’ Kim.”) But unlike other pundits, I’ve actually been to North Korea: I’ve tasted the food, I’ve met with the generals, and I’ve posed for awkward pictures. In the parlance of the 24-hour news culture, that makes me an expert on North Korea. Wolf, call me.