On an unexpected burst of breaking news, a week before Christmas and the end of the year 2011, Vaclav Havel –former Czech president and probably the dearest one in the European continent– and Kim Jong Il –communist North-Korean leader since 1994– died today (Dec 18th), the first one around 4 a.m. and the latter around 10 p.m. ET., according to the time stamps on the press releases I read from AP, Bloomberg and CBS.
I would bet all my upcoming salary that nobody, or maybe just 0.05% of my country’s population knows who these people are. Here’s a attempt to describe the importance of their lives in the world; furthermore, this will include some interesting must-read articles about them.
Vaclav Havel: The man of the Velvet Revolution
When you start reading about communism and how it affected the destiny thousands of people in the world, then you gotta know about the Velvet Revolution. In Czecholosvakia, between November and December of 1989 –I was almost a year old –a series of students’ protests arose under the government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Police forces tried to suppress them, but their voices were stronger.
In 1990, this country went to the ballots for the first time after more than 40 years. Vaclav was elected president, but he resigned in 1992 after the separation of his country into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Nevertheless, he was elected president of the Czech Republic, and ruled from 1993 until 2003. His health was already not in good shape by then, according to this news story from the BBC about him.
He was the first president that contended against communism and led his country to stability and democracy during that time of transition.
Various journalists and leaders all around the world expressed their condolences to the Czech government, and also described him as the “great European” he was, as German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said earlier. Here I’d like to recommend Arianna Huffington’s archived post written in 1998, A tale of two presidents, where she makes some interesting, ironic remarks between Bill Clinton and Havel (which aren’t very glamorous for Clinton, of course).
Kim Jong Il: North Korea’s ‘Dear Leader’ Dictator
I’m actually taking this line from Bloomberg’s coverage, since it’s the first report on Kim Jong’s death that I saw on my Facebook. I need to copy and paste the heading because it’s so incredibly typically american that it needs to be brought up:
Kim Jong Il, the second-generation North Korean dictator who defied global condemnation to build nuclear weapons while his people starved, has died, Yonhap News reported. He was 70.
A couple of years ago I wrote about the tense relations between North Korea and the US., in a particular day when North Korea ‘tested’ some missiles on Japanese waters, which was taken as possible threat to the US and its allies (I don’t know if “threat” would be the right word, but you get the idea). As soon as I saw this piece of news, I wonder what the US government would say about his death. I believe there hasn’t been any press release about it yet.
Even more important than the US reaction to Kim’s death is the one from Japan, its long-time enemy. According to AFP, an emergency security meeting has been called to see what their position will be about it. Apparently, what’s next for North Korea is still uncertain, given the fact that the only heir-apparent would be his son Kim Jong Un, who is in his twenties. Yes, that’s no age for becoming the leader of one of the most controversial nations in Asia.
One interesting piece of news about his dead can be found on ABC, saying that the government has urged North Koreans to ‘rally’ around Kim Jong Un, the supposedly next leader of the Republic of North Korea. This news contains an worth-seeing video and fresh info from the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, which hasn’t updated his press releases yet with this breaking news [so weird]. Despite the fact that American media describe Jong Il as a dictator, they also describe the mourning of North Koreans: people bursting in tears after hearing the news of his death. Surprising?
Anywho, this will be a day to remember. The idea of two leaders, who were worshiped and criticized for completely different reasons, and who also defended totally opposite causes, passing away on the same day makes you think how ironic life can be. As I’m finishing writing this post, an earthshake just hit Lima (for a little longer than 10 seconds). It scared the hell out of me. Too many emotions for one day.