Fortunately for the Bulgarians, North Korea is far away, and though it was once a friend it no longer is. Yet, thanks to the increasingly grotesque regime of Boyko Borisov, there are important similarities. Both Borisov and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, like to be seen inspecting things.
Both Borisov and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, like to be seen inspecting things. In this way they want to assert their authority over the production lines and display their munificence owing to which these production lines were installed in the first place. Kim Jong-un is usually photographed surrounded by stern-looking Communist officials holding little notebook pads in their hands to jot down any wisdom that may come from the Supreme Leader's mouth. In Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov does the driving himself in his private SUV. The back seat is reserved for a minister or a local dignitary, and the iPhone is set rolling by his personal publicist. Kim Jong-un can easily send to a labour camp any of the surrounding officials who fail to listen carefully. Labour camps, luckily, no longer exist in Bulgaria but if you get selected for a ride in the back of Boyko Borisov's jeep you should be very, very careful. The Supreme Leader's chief prosecutor has eyes and ears everywhere.
In recent years, as the situation in the country deteriorates and some Bulgarians are even taking to the streets because they have suddenly realised Boyko Borisov is more like the capo of an organised crime syndicate rather than the protector against Communism he liked to portray himself as, his advisers tend to intensify the jeep jaunts.
The similarities between Boyko Borisov and Kim Jong-un do not end here, however. Both leaders must be seen surrounded by happy and applauding people, sputtering out their love and joy. It is impossible to verify from independent sources whether the North Koreans' love and joy at meetings with Kim Jong-un are genuine, but in Bulgaria they are not. At least not in Vratsa, in northwestern Bulgaria, where Prime Minister Boyko Borisov recently paid a visit to inspect some factories and infrastructure projects. A local TV station reported the crowd greeting Boyko Borisov and expressing gratitude to him for his magnanimity in fact consisted of... GERB members who had been bussed in at short notice to ensure there are people around to welcome their supreme leader.