Kim Jong-un, the hermetic North Korean leader whose regime has likened US President Barack Obama to a monkey and called South Korean President Park Geun-hye a "crafty prostitute" and a witch, is set to receive an award that hails his global statesmanship.
Indonesia's Sukarno Center, an organization based in Bali that describes itself as "dedicated to the citizens of the world in the field of humanity and world peace," announced on Thursday that it is giving Kim an honor that it has previously bestowed on Mahatma Gandhi and Myanmar's political dissident turned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The center is named after Sukarno, the leader of the Indonesian independence movement who was the country's founding president for nearly 22 years. His daughter Rachmawati Soekarnoputri delivered the announcement after meeting with the North Korean ambassador to Jakarta.
"We will give the award to [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un because he has been consistent in carrying out the ideals of the great leader Kim Il-sung, which is to fight imperialism," Rachmawati was quoted as saying in a report published by the Jakarta Globe.
She noted that the Sukarno Center had previously awarded this prize to Kim Il-sung, Kim's grandfather and the founder of North Korea. "So this will be a sequel," Rachmawati added, "where we give the award to Kim Jong-un for his persistence in fighting neocolonialism."
The award is typically meant for leaders who work toward "peace and development," the newspaper reported, leading puzzled observers to wonder whether the committee behind the decision had broadened the criteria to include leaders whose governments stand accused of rampant human rights abuses and political oppression.
Because North Korea is sealed off from much of the world, it is hard to paint a clear and well-documented picture of daily life in the country. But according to intelligence reports and testimony from defectors in the South Korean press, the year after Kim took power following the death of his father Kim Jong-il in 2011, his regime carried out 80 public executions, some for minor infractions such as watching smuggled recordings of South Korean soap operas.
Later, in 2013, the South Korean newspaper Joongang Daily reported that North Korean citizens were forced to attend public spectacles where dozens were executed in stadiums by firing squads. Amnesty International documented 70 such executions that year, and noted that the actual number of executions could be much higher.
Earlier this month, Kim reportedly had a turtle farmer executed after he was disappointed by the farm's output.
"These kinds of executions are warning signals to the people," Jean H. Lee, a policy fellow and expert on North Korea at the Wilson Center, told VICE News after reports of this execution emerged. "If they violate their country's laws, there will be consequences."
The Sukarno Center's uncharacteristically generous estimation of Kim Jong-un's statesmanship might have something to do with Rachmawati having been appointed the honorary Asia-Pacific chairwoman of Pyongyang's Korean unification preparation committee, which is not recognized anywhere outside of North Korea.
Watch the VICE News documentary Launching Balloons into North Korea — Propaganda Over Pyongyang:
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