Kim Jong Un is hardly a man short on accolades – the problem is, most are given out by the North Korean state. Later this year, however, the North Korean leader will finally gain some international recognition, joining the likes of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi and India’s Mahatma Gandhi in receiving a statesmanship award from an Indonesian-based organization.
The accolade, given out by the Bali-based Sukarno Education Foundation, honors Kim for his "peace, justice and humanity," Agence France Presse reports. The North Korean leader is due to receive the award in September.
If you don't equate Kim with "peace, justice and humility," that's understandable. North Korea is nicknamed the "hermit kingdom" for its isolation, and after three generations and almost 70 years of the Kim family dynasty, much of the world knows the country better for its violence, repression and cruelty. Last year, a United Nations investigation accused the country of human rights abuses “without any parallel in the contemporary world," pointing towards Nazi Germany to find a suitable comparison.
However the award shouldn't come as too much of a surprise: According to the Jakarta Globe, the Sukarno Education Foundation had previously given the award to Kim's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, posthumously in 2001. North Korea and Indonesia have enjoyed bilateral relations since the 1960s, established during the era of Kim Il Sung and Indonesian President Sukarno, for whom the Bali-based foundation is named.
Rachmawati Sukarnoputri, head of the foundation and the daughter of Sukarno, the founding leader of Indonesia, is quick to dismiss international criticism of North Korea. "The allegations about human rights abuses are untrue," she explained to AFP, dismissing the reports of atrocities as "Western propaganda."
Sukarnoputri also draws parallels with her own father, who led Indonesia's independence movement before spending almost 22 years as the country's leader. Remembered as a charismatic if autocratic leader, Sukarno's anti-colonial outlook was also criticized by the West, Sukarnoputri notes. “It’s common [to be branded a dictator]. To stand on one’s principles in reaching a goal, many consider this the behavior of a dictator,” Sukarnoputri told the Jakarta Post last week.
As absurd as Kim's prize may seem, international peace prizes often reflect a political leaning. While everyone may be well aware of the Nobel Peace Prize, they may be less familiar with the China-based Confucius Peace Prize, which was launched in 2010 and was recently awarded to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Individuals criticized by the West have at points set up their own peace prizes to rival the Nobel – between 1988 to 2010, Libya had its own own "Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights." Winners included Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and the children of Palestine.
According to a 2014 poll conducted by the BBC World Service, not all Indonesians may support the view of Sukarno Education Foundation. That poll found that just 28 percent of Indonesians viewed North Korea's influence as mainly positive, compared to 44 percent who viewed it as mainly negative.
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