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Number 1 Shimbun

I Dislike Kim and Trump But Hope They Succeed in Their Summitry

I Dislike Kim and Trump But Hope They Succeed in Their Summitry
by Bradley K. Martin

In the interest of full disclosure, let me come right out and acknowledge holding serious grudges against a couple of newsmakers I often write about.

One is Donald J. Trump. My disapproval of him is generic, shared by over half of my fellow Americans and much of the rest of the world’s population.

With the other guy, Kim Jong-un, it’s more personal. Besides all Kim’s other bad deeds, I blame him for interfering with my plans to morph from workaday Pyongyang watcher to world-renowned and fabulously wealthy bestselling novelist.

Several years ago I sent my New York agent a draft of a first novel, Nuclear Blues, in which I imagined the downfall of the Kim dynasty. His verdict was: “Deserves to be published.” Before he could follow through, though, he fell ill and died.

To make a sale to one of the major publishing houses you generally need an agent, so I started searching for a replacement.

I’d failed to anticipate Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s 2014 announcement of a Sony Pictures movie, The Interview, whose plot bore a slight resemblance to mine. (I’d say theirs is Animal House to my Fargo.)

The Interview didn’t show in Pyongyang theaters. The chief scheduler there, Kim Jong-un, felt offended that he’d been made a buffoon in a farce featuring a couple of doltish American assassins.

Hackers retaliated with a massive cyber attack, capturing and distributing Sony’s unreleased movies and internal emails. Facing hacker threats of violence, major American theater chains declined to show The Interview.

Estimates of the damage to Sony ranged up to US$100 million. Although North Korea denied involvement, American officials fingered Kim’s cyber commandos.

The Sony caper didn’t scare me. I don’t have tens of millions to lose, for one thing. And since then, I’ve grown accustomed to being the target of hack attacks. I even had a visit from a pair of US Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to warn that, apparently related to my work, “state-sponsored” hackers “in the Far East” were trying to break into my email. I invested in protective measures.

The book publishing industry, on the other hand, had a lot more to lose and could hardly avoid taking note of what had happened to Sony. My project for fictional regime change in North Korea turned toxic. If literary agents responded to my queries at all, they wrote something vague like “Not for me.”

Finally giving up my quest to find an agent and a traditional publisher, I went ahead and self-published Nuclear Blues.

I knew my choice was a recipe for likely obscurity. After all, few brick-and-mortar bookstores stock self-published books. The largest mainstream publications typically have rules against reviewing them.

Sure enough, Nuclear Blues is not flying off the shelves. For this I say, my voice dripping with bitter sarcasm, “Thanks, Kim Jong-un.”

And now those two fellows I dislike plan to sit down together and talk about an end to a state of war that’s lasted for nearly seven decades. As if they were rubbing it in, their success would deal another blow to Nuclear Blues by creating credibility problems for its near-future plot.

So I want them to fail, right? Wrong. As someone who’s spent four decades hoping to make sense of North Korea before the peninsula explodes, I’m cheering for their success.

In my youth I ushered for two years at professional wrestling matches in my hometown, Marietta, Georgia. The good guy always occupied a fixed corner of the ring (southeast), while the opposite corner was always reserved for the bad guy – an extra clue to any fan in need of help deciding whom to boo and whom to cheer.

One of the tasks of my boss, the promoter, was making sure an equal number of good guys and bad guys showed up for work. Occasionally there were gaps in the lineup caused by budget problems or no-shows.

One night the promoter himself, long since retired from wrestling, had to don a pair of trunks to fill out a card. He was popular among regular fans as their genial Saturday night host Elmo Chappell, but when he showed up in the northwest – bad guy’s – corner under his old ring name of Red Dugan they showered him with verbal abuse.

My point in relating this anecdote is, if Kim and Trump want to form a tag team, take off their meanie masks and be good guys for a change that’s just fine with me.

Anyhow, I have an ace up my sleeve. Self-publishing software has developed to the point an author-publisher can prepare a new edition with the push of a button.

If Trump and Kim defy all odds and come up with a sound agreement I’ll shout “Huzzah!” even as I’m modifying my novel’s plot so that it’s NOT overtaken by events.

Longtime correspondent and Club member Bradley K. Martin’s other book is nonfiction: Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. A version of this story was published by Asia Times.


Published in: June 2018

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