A North Korean delegation met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to improve relations recently, just days before the presidential elections. Assad stressed that the relations between the two countries “stem from the common destiny of their peoples.” The Official North Korean and Syrian news agencies, KCNA and SANA respectively, signed a cooperation agreement; both sides pledged “quality control” to match each other’s professional standards.
The Syrian regime, while fighting a fierce war in different parts of the country, has found time to celebrate the birthdays of North Korea’s two former presidents. KCNA reported on February 1 from Pyongyang that “a Syrian preparatory committee for celebrating the birth anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il (the Day of the Shining Star) was formed on January 23. The director of the Higher Education Department of the Regional Leadership of the Syrian Baath Arab Socialist Party was elected chairman of the preparatory committee. The committee decided to organize colorful political and cultural events for praising the revolutionary career and exploits of Kim Jong Il on the occasion of the Day of the Shining Star.
Nearly a month later, while Aleppo’s barrel bomb war was going on, the Syria-based Palestinian Yarmouk Camp was starving while the Syrian regime prepared for the birth of Kin Il Sung, dubbed as “the day of the Sun.”
According to KCNA, “a Syrian preparatory committee for marking the birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung (Day of the Sun) was formed on March 16. The director of the Higher Education Department of the Regional Leadership of the Syria’s Baath Arab Socialist Party was elected chairman of the committee. It decided to arrange diverse political and cultural events to celebrate the Day of the Sun.”
The agency went as far as quoting a senior Syrian academic as saying that Kim Yong Un is “the greatest man in the world.” “World public is highly praising the greatness of supreme leader Kim Jong Un. The department’s head of the Political Faculty of the University of Damascus of Syria said that Kim Jong Un is identical to President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il in looks, traits and leadership. He went on: The world progressive people are praising Kim Jong Un for invariably glorifying the DPRK as an invincible socialist power, true to the cause of preceding leaders. World media are highly lauding Kim Jong Un as the most famous and greatest man in the world though it is not long ago that he started leading the DPRK.”
The Syrian regime’s media reported no less adulation and affection, showering the North Korean leadership with praise, and reporting on the official visits and solidarity. In an April 14 front page editorial, the official Al- Thawra newspaper wrote that “leader Kim Jung Un is the great human being who bears the intellect, leadership qualities and ethical traits of both leaders, Kim Il Sung, and Kim Yong Il. He also has the ultimate love and respect of his people. The Korean people will continue to pursue the cause of Socialism till the end, generation after generation, under the wise leadership of Kim Yong Un.”
The two autocratic states share a lot in common, they are both hereditary Socialist Republics with a ruthless Security apparatus. Also, the North Korean leader, Kim Yong Un, who like Assad inherited the presidency from his father after studying in Europe, recently demonstrated his commitment to his father’s ruthless legacy by reportedly executing his uncle. Among the reasons cited by the KCNA, the official North Korean agency, he “turned down the unanimous request of the service personnel of a unit of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces to have the autograph letter sent by Kim Jong Un to the unit carved on a natural granite and erected with good care in front of the building of its command. He was so reckless as to instruct the unit to erect it in a shaded corner.”
The many similarities between the countries, experts say, is not a coincidence. Lisa Wedeen wrote in her renowned book on Syria, “Ambiguities of Domination,” that Hafez Assad, the former Syrian president and father of the incumbent, “visited North Korea in September 1974 and may have been inspired by the cult there.”
Wedeen’s 1999 contention that the official language and symbols seek to prematurely kill politics, and “depoliticize people by orchestrating public performances” in return for their safety, appear to be outdated habits in a war in which he is widely mocked on the opposition’s side, according to activists.
The recent upsurge in the relations between the two countries may as well be a manifestation of their ruthless nature, Malek Abu Khair, an activist and former political prisoner believes. “They both share the same utter indifference to their peoples’ suffering.”