And yet, the very same punditry and chattering classes and extensive networks of intelligence agencies, in the end, have admitted they fail to understand the DPRK. Understandably so, since they are motived and blinded by ideology.
Kim Jong il was no saint, but he was true to the defence of his country and his people who valued freedom and independence than subservience to foreign powers.
North Korea is a country on war standing as it should be: it is at war with the US led UN coalition and South Korea which waged battle against it 61 years ago during the Korean War. A 1953 Armistice Agreement froze the lines of combat that North Korean troops and Chinese volunteers managed to roll back the US to the 38 parallel. And the US and South Korea [who refused to sign the armistice] have not been in the mood to sign a peace treaty since then.
Kim Jong il took over the reins of power after the sudden death of his father Kim Il Sung; he assumed leadership at a time when his Soviets ally disappeared, leaving North Korea short of foreign aid; this linked with natural disasters resulted in widespread starvation which took a heavy tool on North Korea.
Still, he managed to bell the US cat which threatened nuclear war and enter into talks with the Clinton administration which had a rocky history. Washington expected Kim to fail and North Korea to implode. How wrong they were and even now the punditry is wide off the mark mainly out of self imposed ignorance on what's happening in the DPRK.
Yet, Kim never ceased to call for direct negotiations with the US. The Bush and Obama administration have stubbornly proved deaf to his appeals, betting that through denial of food aid, fertilizers, and sanctions, they could bring North Korea to its knees. Wrong again.
The foolish Bush bet on the wrong strategy: the DPRK joined the nuclear club owing to his stupidity and inflexibility, and the US and the revanchist South Korea under the presidency of Lee Myung bak have to live with that!
Up until his death, Kim pushed for ending the Korean War and better relations with Washington. He was not a boy scout in any sense as George W. Bush is not by his war in Iraq, but one thing he was not: he wasn't a clown nor the monster the editorial pages, say, of the 'Wall Street Journal' or the endless babble of the US North Korean clerisy make him out to be.
And yet, there is a body of commentary that try to rationally appraise Kim Jong il, but they are frozen out of the discourse because they would unmask the 'Wizard of Oz' sleight of hand of those who tirelessly work to 'roll back' North Korea.
And that policy has proven and is manifestly bankrupt.