Even as the international community prepares to take action against North Korea for its unprovoked attack of a South Korean frigate, its enigmatic leader, Kim Jong-il, may be benefiting from the fallout with a bump in popularity. “This will distract people from their troubles,” one North Korean economist said. Indeed, even as the ruling party in South Korea is swept out of office due to public dissatisfaction, air defense drills and mass rallies in the North have drawn crowds of up to 100,000 supporters. It is still unclear if the order for the naval aggression came directly from King Jong-il—some suspect is was his son Kim Jong Un, in an attempt to establish authority. But the ailing leader has spun the incident into a cause for national unity. Meanwhile, the U.S. plans to hold joint naval exercises with the South only after the U.N. responds.
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