Kim Jong Il: Middle-School Fangirl

You know those crazed Korean middle school girls who are fans of big famous idol groups, who hate the idea of their favorite popstar dating some other girl so much that narratives of gay love among those idol stars are popular in their circles?

Yeah, well, I don’t know if Kim Jong Il ever put up a lesbian-fantasy website about Yun Hye-yeong, but if he did, he has certainly taken it down now. The young woman in question was in one of North Korea’s assumably few rock groups, Bocheonbo Electronic Band.

So, Kim was in love with her, but she was in love with the pianist in the band — who else? — and Kim didn’t like this one little bit. She gets wind of him knowing, and she and her boyfriend jump off the roof of the “Mongranggwan… a banquet hall for state guests of North Korea in Pyongyang.”

The guy dies, but the Yun survives, comatose and on an IV drip. Kim orders what?

Kim ordered the authorities concerned to ‘kill her after reviving her at any cost.’

In 2003, Yun was shot while unconscious and still on an IV drip, the website said. ‘Thereafter, Kim completely turned his back to the performances conducted by Bocheonbo Electronic Band,’ it said.

With leaders like these…

Thing is, this is not so unusual. I have in my possession a wonderful book by the utterly-appropriately named Mary Frances Wack, which discusses the medieval concept of love-sickness. It’s a fascinating book, and somewhere near the end Wack notes that it was upper-class fellas who tended to come down with it. Women, well, occasionally, but not so much. And lower-class guys almost never reported love-sickness… but did report a lot of witches bewitching them.

Wack’s theory about why this is the case, as I remember it (I haven’t spent time with it in some time now) ties the phenomenon of lovesickness not just to Medieval concepts of passionate love, and courtly love (often one and the same), as well as the Christian ideal of suffering, and the apparently emasculating nuances of illness, but also the tradition of vengeful magic and bewitching sorcery.

Which is to say, part of the story of why Medieval physicians took lovesickness so seriously as a disease is the same reason why murder ballads were so popular back in the day — Paul Slade has more on how they were, in one sense, a form of journalism, but the fact these narratives stuck out as notable also suggests they touched a cultural or psychological nerve.

I suspect the nerve that at least some of those murder ballads, like “Knoxville Girl,” touched was the one which men have long seemed to find far more galling and horrifying than women: the fact that men, no matter their privileged position in society compared to women, could no more compel a woman to love them, or to be faithful to them, or control the women’s feelings for them, than they could control the wind or compel it faithfully to blow where they wished.

Sure, in a time like ours, civilized men at least have come to terms with this, and accepted the autonomy of women. But in times past, we can be sure that the autonomy of women was likely perceived as a problem for men.

To be sure, Kim Jong Il’s act was barbarous. But it’s not quite so alien to us as we’d like to think. the main difference is that in Kim’s society, he really can do (with impunity) what medieval noblemen rarely enacted, and contemporary South Korean schoolgirls, can only fantasize about: exact the most complete revenge possible for unrequited “love.”

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