The Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, hasn’t been seen in public since September 3rd. This is his longest absence since he assumed control of the Democratic People’s Republic in 2011. According to state-run media, he’s suffering from an “uncomfortable physical condition.” Video footage has shown him limping.
But, speculation has spread around the world that something else is afoot: a silent coup, a heart attack, an extended visit to a weight treatment center in Dubai.
So where is Kim Jong-un? What happened to him?
Unfortunately, I know the truth: He’s here. Living in my basement.
Kimjo (as he requests to be called) arrived a little over a month ago from Pyongyang. He’s not injured or ill, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead of repressing the freedoms of his 25 million subjects, he’s sitting in my couch playing a video game called Diablo III. He refuses to take breaks. He’s been surviving on cheese puffs and energy drinks.
Why did he choose my basement? I don’t claim to know the full answer. We met in May of 2012 when I was writing a piece for LA Magazine about the leisure activities of world dictators. I interviewed him at his palace in Pyongyang. For whatever reason, he seemed to feel an immediate connection to me. Eyes wide and cheeks rosy, he spilled forth tales of the games he’d played and those he hadn’t. I don’t know anything about video games so I nodded along politely and added a few ambiguous words here and there.
But Kimjo seemed to think we were exactly on the same page. He confided to me that his sister and the other party leaders looked down on his interest in action role-playing games. I told him I understood how hard that must be. He smiled, his eyes gleaming. Then he asked me if he could play at my house. I laughed, said why not, but as it turned out, he was serious.
Two weeks later, he arrived for the first time. He didn’t stay long. He scoped out the place a bit. When he was comfortable, he took his own system out of his backpack, played for a few hours, then flew home.
His next few visits were longer but nothing like his current stay. Now, his fingers jab at the controllers like missile sausages. He glares at the screen as if staring down a South Korean in the Demilitarized Zone. He hasn’t cleaned himself either, so, yes, he is starting to smell.
More troubling, I think he’s starting to doubt my trustworthiness. He asks me accusatory questions: “No advice for this level?” “Why no personal PS4?” Yesterday, he demanded that I taste the cheese puffs and energy drinks before he consumed them. He’s a paranoid young man.
Of course, I want to kick him out of my house. But I fear that he will try to fight me. That would not end well. If I rough him up, he’ll seek vengeance. If I let him win, he’ll have no reason to leave. My only hope is that he beats the game soon. Yet I’m starting to suspect that Diablo III is the sort of game that you can play forever.
That is why I am writing now. For help.
Citizens of North Korea, please demand that your Supreme Leader returns. Party leaders, please stop judging Kimjo so that he feels comfortable playing massively multi-player video games in his own home. President Obama, perhaps you can lure him out of my basement with a buffet at the White House.
Something needs to happen. He does not belong here. I am not his friend. If he stays any longer, I fear that world peace will suffer along with me.