I hope your winter break was enjoyable, because for me it was filled with anxiety of the world being turned upside down.
Let’s dive into a major hotbed, South East Asia. First, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea, is a country of millions of people who may or may not be enslaved to the will of dictator with a cult of personality.
Kim Jong-un has been leader of North Korea since his father’s death in 2011. He has been trying to solidify his position as the new dear leader. This has led to an underground nuclear test, the Yongbyon nuclear reactor restarting, positioning Choe Ryung-hae, a civilian and close friend of the Kim family, as the director of the KPA General Political Bureau, the DPRK’s highest ranking soldier after Kim Jong-un.
Most recently though, Kim had his uncle, Chang Song-thaek, tried and executed for committing treason, specifically planning a coup against his nephew, reported by the BBC.
It is not improbable that a member of the Kim family might have actually plotted to overthrow the other, what is surprising is that Kim publicly exposed this and labelled his uncle as “factionalist filth,” the BBC reports. This puts many uneasy, if the leadership is seen as contested by inside or outside the DPRK, this gives Kim an excuse to lash out. Subsequently, Aljazeera reports the US has sent additional troops and 40 main battle tanks to South Korea.
Second, China and Japan’s row over the disputed Senkaku Islands has become hot and heated. The newest developments started after China put in place an air defence zone that encompassed the disputed Islands. Most recently China was offended by the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visiting a World War II shrine that entombs known Class-A War Criminals, just before Christmas. Before this, Abe promised to expand the military in Japan to include an amphibious landing unit and amend the constitution as to allow for the Japanese military to be an aggressive force, instead of just a self defence force, according to the BBC.
This news instills images of a resurgence of nationalist Japan, which as we know from our history lessons, did not like to play with others or share. Thankfully though, Japanese are reportedly proud of their pacifist constitution, but with the increasing nationalist rhetoric in China, this puts fear into the South East Asian countries.
Third, Thailand, a prime example of democracy in South East Asia, has been engulfed by political turmoil. The BBC reports, the urban, elite, and monarchists have been protesting for months now for new elections and have achieved this goal, but it seems as soon as they were awarded these concessions by the populist government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the protesters changed their mind. The opposition decided to boycott the upcoming elections, and the new goal for the protesters was the ouster of the PM.
This is madness, not only because the army may possibly side with this minority and overthrow the PM in a coup as they did with her brother, Thaksin, but because the protesters are asking for the destruction of their own democracy. The reason they wish for the ouster of the PM is simple, they know they cannot win the election fairly because the rural communities and the poor love the PM and her party. The real flashpoint will be Election Day, and whether the urban, rich, elite will be content with the results, which most likely they will not. As you can see, the messy, chaotic world kept turning while everyone was away on their winter break.
Welcome back to a slice of reality.