Friday, December 13, 2013

Shakespeare's Macbeth and North Korea's Kim Jong Un

We studied the tragedy Macbeth in high school, and this Shakespearean play impressed me so much that decades later I can still quote passages: "Out damned spot..." or "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..."

Recent news from North Korea brought this Shakespearean tragedy back to my mind.

The events in North Korea seem medieval or Shakespearean at best. The most recent is this: the North Korean leader turns against his uncle who had mentored him after his father's death; the leader has the uncle arrested in a humiliating way; leader denounces uncle  as a traitor "of all ages... worse than a dog... despicable human scum, and has him executed by machine gun.

The swiftness of the execution of Jan Song-thaek was stunning.

This wasn't the only execution however.   Last August, leader's ex-girlfriend, Hyon Song Wol, was reportedly executed along with 11 other members of the Unhasu Orchestra. Accused of making and selling a sex tape, the group was executed in front of their families. Family members were then sent to notorious prison camps.

In 2012, there had been an earlier execution  of the vice minister of the army, Kim Chol, who was taken in custody and executed via mortar round. The leader wanted "no trace of him behind, down to his hair."

From the October 24, 2012 article of The Telegraph:

"When Kim Jong-un became North Korean leader following the mourning period for his father in late December, high-ranking military officers started disappearing," a source told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. "From information compiled over the last month, we have concluded that dozens of military officers were purged."

It also appears that Mr Kim ordered his loyal officials to use the excuse of misbehaviour during the mourning period for his father to remove any potential opponents.

Other officials have been executed by firing squads, including Ryu Kyong, a senior intelligence expert.

Since being elevated to second-in-command of the nation by his father in September 2010, Kim has reportedly been behind the dismissal of at least 31 senior officials."

Ah, that's quite a number of deaths! And such horrible deaths to boot.

In Shakespeare's tragedy, the Scottish Lord Macbeth upon the urging of Lady Macbeth kills King Duncan. Macbeth is then appointed king. As a result of the awful deeds they have committed, Shakespeare's characters do respond to the actions and they disintegrate. Macbeth commits more murder while Lady Macbeth loses her mind and commits suicide.

Macbeth is about the love for power and the great extent people will go through to get it, which thematically sounds like what's going on in North Korea.

My question now is this: Will the real character(s) in North Korea be wracked with guilt and paranoia as Shakespeare's fictional characters did?

Or are there people who do not have the capacity to feel guilt?

If you have thoughts on this question, dear Readers, email me.

Here's a quote from Macbeth.  We had to memorize this, and I still remember most of the lines:

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Read also:
Aftermath Typhoon Haiyan: A Need to End the Days of Oligarchy in the Philippines
Creative Writing: Your Writing Work Space (In My Case, Where my Cats Hang Out)
The Importance of Sensual Writing
Childhood in the path of typhoons
pictures courtesy of wikipedia: top picture shows Kim Jong Un and his wife; next is Macbeth meeting the three witches

All for now,

tags: North Korea, Shakespeare, Kim Jong Un, Macbeth


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