North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il is looking, well, decidedly mortal these days. After reportedly undergoing heart bypass surgery in May, Kim has finally reappeared in public for a meeting with China's foreign minister during a celebration of the North Korean army's 75th anniversary.
The once rotund "Dear Leader" appeared much thinner than usual, and his once resplendent pompadour has given way to a terrifyingly sparse and patchy scalp full of bald spots and odd bursts of wiry hair. Never before has such a powerful dictator looked so ... mangy. Of course, Kim's health is a strictly kept state secret, so how did the illustrious Stalinist monarch explain his recent frail appearance? By claiming he's been spending long nights in the office. Obviously, Kim can hardly afford to do something as bourgeois as dropping dead before he settles the question of which of his sons will succeed him when he dies.
Kim's oldest son, Kim Jong-nam, is nearly 36, and apparently, had devoted himself mostly to living a life of leisure. By contrast, Kim Jong-Il had already joined the North Korean politburo by the age of 32. While Korean tradition obviously favors primogeniture, the porcine heir apparent is reportedly in disgrace with his father. After Kim Jong-nap was arrested in Japan for trying to enter the country with a fake Dominican passport, Kim Jong-Il apparently began grooming his second oldest son, 25 year old Kim Jong-chul. Rumors abound, however, that Kim Jong-chul is a homosexual, and is considered "too effeminate" to rule North Korea. That leaves 22 year old Kim Jong-woong as the last choice, but he's considered far too young to enter the cutthroat world of North Korean politics.
What dictator watchers really want to know is: just what kind of "leader" will take over when Kim Jong-Il dies? Papa Kim Il-Sung was the "Great Leader", while his son Kim Jong-Il is the "Dear Leader". Following the downward trend of adulatory adjectives, can we expect an "Alright Leader" or even a "Just Okay Leader"? Would anyone like to propose a new adjective for North Korea's next Stalinist despot?