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    Mister Kim if you’re nasty

    Miss Manners keeps telling you the little gestures of politeness are important, but do you listen? Of course not. However, President Bush does–at least according to one agency in the DPRK government:

    A spokesperson for the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised US President Bush for having referred to Premier Kim Jong-il with the honorific “Mister” on 31 May, saying, “If what he said puts a full stop on the conflict between hard-liners and moderates, it will contribute toward the building of an atmosphere [congenial to] the 6-party talks.

    It strikes me that, coming from a head of state who’s known for his chumminess, the fussy use of “Mister” could just as easily be an expression of chill distance. (Or maybe that’s just me, since I deliver expressions of chill distance with some regularity.)

    Interestingly, while looking for something about the speech in English, I came across this old CSM article. It’s by a Russian diplomat who traveled with Kim for three weeks the summer before 9/11. The more I look at it, the more I think I remember having read it at the time, although I can’t be sure:

    I was warned that the leader does not approve of the address, “Mister.” We were a bit shocked at first, but we got used to [saying], “Could you tell the Great General….” Now it was natural for me to address the North Korean leader as “Comrade Chairman,” “Chairman Kim Jong Il.”

    Kim Jong Il expressed regret that, since George Bush came to power, the US approach to Korean affairs has changed. The North Korean leader does not like it that the administration of the American president places [North Korea] on the same shelf as countries promoting extremism, violence, and terror.

    If you’d like to nauseate yourself, you can linger over Kim’s fulsome praise of Bill Clinton; an icky, borderline-flirtatious conversation with Madeleine Albright during her famous visit; and an interlude of relaxed mateyness with Vladimir Putin.

    On returning to the present, remember that, “Mister” or no “Mister,” there’s still plenty of room for animosity:

    DPRK Ambassador to the UN Pak Gil-yon, lecturing at the Toronto Center for International Research, sharply criticized the US: “Not only has the US not changed its posture of frank hostility, but it has left the DPRK no choice but to tackle the task of nuclear arms development.” Pak also criticized Japan for its position on historical issues. Asked during the Q&A session after his lecture about [the possibility] of returning to the 6-party talks, he responded, “We are working hard [on a resolution]. We have unlimited time.”

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