** North Korea is the most isolated, secretive and repressive regime in the world. There is no reliable biography on Kim Jong-un. Dr. Van Jackson, a professor at Asia-Pacific Center said, “It is hard to verify most information coming out of North Korea. In the absence of a reliable official biography, the information publicly available about Kim Jong-un reflects a ‘broad consensus understanding from experts keeping a close eye on the regime.” Calamity Politics has depended on the accuracy of many articles printed in the United States and the UK to compile this article.-Darlene
Murder and Intrigue: The Life of Kim Jong Un
By D. S. Mitchell
Who is Kim Jong-Un?
Recent meetings between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have fueled questions about the most isolated and secretive country in the world. People in the west are curious about the “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea and its brutal leader, Kim Jong-un. We do know he was the third, and youngest son of Kim Jong-il and Ko Yong-hui. Kim Jong-il was the absolute ruler of North Korea from 1994 until his death in 2011. His grandfather, Kim Il-Sung became the first leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1948 and ruled the country with an iron hand until his death in 1994. “Kim Jong-un is the third head of state from his family’s dictatorial dynasty, one of the last absolute inherited monarchies on earth (KSRO).”
Kim Jong Un (also spelled Kim Jong-Eun) is believed to have been born January 8, 1983 (or possibly 1984). Much of his early life is shrouded in mystery, or downright confusion. Several conflicting and contradictory stories about him while he lived in Switzerland have emerged. Many experts believe Jong-un was confused with his older brother Jong-chul on several occasions. Jong-chul also lived in Switzerland at the same time, but attended a different school.
Kim Jong-un attended the Liebefeld Steinholzli state school in Koniz, near Bern. Kim Jong-un’s identity has been proven by anthropological forensic studies of images from official school photos of the boy. The Liebefeld archives study was done by the University of Lyon, France using facial recognition . Kim Jong-un used the alias “Pak-un” or “Un-pak” and posed as the son of a North Korean embassy official. His mother Ko Yong-hui is known to have been at least a part-time Swiss resident during the years between 1991 and 2000, living in Geneva.
Does Kim Jong-un Speak English?
“Pak-un” (Jong-un) is remembered as shy and quiet. He studied French, English and German. He loved American basketball, Michael Jordan and computer games. He was reportedly a mediocre student. It is believed he speaks decent French and German. It is not clear whether he actually has a command of the English language. Dennis Rodman after a visit to North Korea said that they used an interpreter, but he also indicated that Kim made several remarks to him in English. After many years isolated from English, French or German it is unlikely he has a true command of any of the languages.
Kim Jong-nam was Jong-un’s elder half-brother. His mother was a Kim Jong-il’s consort, the beautiful North Korean actress, Song Hye-rim. Kim Jong-nam was born in May 1971. He was for many years the favorite to succeed his father. In 2001 Jong-nam embarrassed North Korea by being caught trying to enter Japan illegally on a fake passport allegedly to visit the Tokyo Disneyland. The incident caused a great deal of publicity and his father was enraged over the international embarrassment that the incident caused. At the time Kim Jong-nam was the closest thing North Korea had to an international playboy.
More Than Mouse Ears
Out of favor Kim Jong-nam was exiled from North Korea. Until that time Jong-nam had appeared to be the chosen successor to Kim Jong-il. His hereditary position was now in jeopardy. In the first interview ever given by a member of the Kim family to media outside of North Korea he denied the disastrous Disneyland trip was the issue dividing him and his father. Kim Jong-nam told a Japanese journalist from the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper that his alienation from his father was related to his western ideas. Kim said his education in Switzerland had changed his views and that he had become an advocate for government reform. He said he was deeply concerned for the average North Korean citizen.
Time After Time
When discussing these issues with his father, Kim Jong-nam said his father accused him of being a “capitalist”. The void between the two grew with the passage of time. Reports show that Kim Jong-nam escaped multiple assassination attempts, in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012. A desperate Jong-nam is known to have written to Kim Jong-un pleading for his life. However, after that appeal, Jong-nam agreed to an interview with Yogi Gomi a Japanese journalist in which he said, he “expected Kim Jong-un would fail, citing that “he was too inexperienced and young. Without reform North Korea will collapse and when such changes take place the regime will collapse.” Drum roll….
Murder Played and Replayed
Jong-nam, Kim Jong-il’s capitalist son was murdered 2/13/2017 in a bizarre on-camera attack at the Kuala Lumpur, airport by two women. The moment of the attack was replayed on western television for over a week. Jong-nam was 45 years old. One woman splashed liquid in his face and the second woman used a rag to smear the liquid around his face. He was dead from VX nerve gas poisoning within 10 minutes of the attack. A Vietnamese woman, Doan Thi Huong, and an Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, were arrested after the attack. Both women confessed to the attack but testified they believed they were playing a prank for a TV reality show. Siti Aisyah was released in March 2019 after charges were dropped. Doan Thi Huong pleaded guilty on a reduced charge and is scheduled for release in April 2019 for time served. Most intelligence services believe Kim Jong-un ordered his half brothers killing.
Kim Jong-un has another older brother, Kim Jong-chul. Kim Jong-chul was born in 1981. He was not favored by his father. Jong-chul was considered to be “effeminate”. Kim Jong-chul has no interest in politics it is said. Thae Yong-ho a former deputy ambassador who defected to South Korea has said, “Kim Jong-chul leads a quiet life in Pyongyang where he plays guitar in a band.” I close my eyes and try to imagine this son of the dead “Supreme Leader” playing in a head-banging band hammering out tunes in a smoke-filled North Korean bar.
The Chef Tells His Story
On the other hand, Kim Jong-un was very much favored by his father. “He is a big drinker and never admits defeat” said Kenji Fujimoto Kim Jong-il’s personal chef. Fujimoto continued describing Kim Jong-un saying, “He smokes Yves Saint Laurent cigarettes, loves Johnnie Walker whiskey. He is a chip off the old block, a spitting image of his father in terms of face, body shape and personality.” By 2009 it was confirmed that Jong-un was being groomed to succeed his father. It is agreed by most experts that Kim Jong-un attended and graduated from Kim Il-sung University. His attendance was from 2002-2007. The University is a leading officer-training school in Pyongyang. In 2010 Jong-un was given the rank of a four star general. This despite Jong-un never having had any military experience.
In December 2011 Kim Jong-Un was placed at the head of the party, the state and the army within weeks of his father’s death. During the same time Kim Jong-un was declared the country’s “Supreme Leader”. Since that time he has been honored with many other official titles: First Secretary of the ruling Korean Worker’s Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and National Defense Commission. A man of limitless strength and abilities. In fact, the United States also has such a man. A man known as Jared Kushner. A man who is able to carry out nothing. But, who keeps getting more and more responsibility.
In June of 2018 the North Korean Congress met to broaden and solidify Kim Jong-un’s power. The KWP was eliminated. The Congress created the State Affairs Commission. Kim Jong-un was appointed its chairman. This new commission became North Korea’s most powerful government agency. It was clear he intended to move out from the shadow of his father and grandfather. He is quickly and quietly carrying out a generational replacement in key elite posts in the Workers’s Party and his government.
Since coming to power, Jong-un has pursued a ruthless consolidation of power through execution. In December 2013 Kim Jong-un ordered the arrest and execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek for “alleged treachery.” He was executed with antiaircraft machine guns. And his body incinerated with flamethrowers. After the execution Jong-un reportedly said, “I have removed the scum” from the Korean Worker’s Party (Wikipedia). Sources reported that Jong-un wanted to erase all traces of Jang’s existence through “extensive executions” of his uncle’s family including the children and grandchildren.
A New Face
The execution of Jang and Jang’s family was significant. Jang had been part of his father’s inner core. Jang had even acted as regent to the younger Jong-un. Now, he was dead. O Sang-hon Deputy Security Minister, a supporter of Jang Song-thaek was also killed at Jong-un’s orders. He has been busy clearing the ranks of the old party officials. New and younger faces fill published photographs. The grey haired dinosaurs of the past are now gone. Mark Bowden said in a Vanity Fair article, “It was crucial to clean house in the military, replacing older leaders loyal to his father with those primarily loyal to him, many of them younger men. This not only ensured that the military’s commanders were beholden to him but also infused the old Cold War-ranks with more modern thinking and less resistance to change.”
Violation of human rights and suppression of opposition have been an international issue under his rule. North Korea is a ruthless police state. Jong-un rules with extreme brutality. He has used force and threat of force to suppress opposition dissent. North Korean expert, Robert Kelly, PhD, professor of political science at Pusan National University reflects on Jong-un, saying he is a “Neronian dictator-figure–grossly self-indulgent, vicious, prone to self-glorification–but not stupid or irrational in a way that might endanger his grip on power.” Mark Bowden writing for Vanity Fair described Kim Jong-un, “little more than a bad and erratic approximation of his canny father.”
Kim Jong-un had a spoiled and privileged childhood. He has never known hunger. He has never known restraint. There has always been a fleet of Mercedes limos to take him wherever he needs to go. He has a private island where he suns and swims with just his family. Then there is that private ski run. He has had the benefit of a first class Swiss education. His wealth is estimated at least $5 Billion. He is surrounded by slavish adulation “multitudes stand, cheer and wave at the merest glimpse of him. Men and women and children weep for joy when he smiles and waves.” The reality is that Kim Jong-un has a view of himself and his world as “supreme.”
It is known that Kim Jong-un has executed at least 340 people. In 2016, Kim Yong-jin, Deputy Premier for education was killed after showing “disrespectful posture” in a meeting. Hyon Yong-chol, a general in the military was executed by anti-aircraft machine gun for falling asleep during a briefing. In addition to political purges and familial murder North Korea is the propaganda capital of the world.
The UN Weighs In, Again
The UN declares, North Korea “operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machines that takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and manufacture absolute obedience.” There is no independent thought. The propaganda is used to incite nationalism. Increasing hatred to North Korea’s official enemies, such as Japan and the United States.
Murder and Enslavement
International consensus has identified Kim Jong-un’s North Korea “as a human right’s nightmare (KSRO).” Crimes “entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons, and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” concluded a 2014 UN report.
“Political criminals” are routinely arrested and sentenced to prison camps without trials. Often their families have no idea what happened to their loved one. In 2014 more than 120,000 prisoners were divided between the country’s four political prisons. The UN reports “gruesome” conditions, “hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have died or been murdered in these camps over the last 50 years.”
Two to three million North Koreans are believed to have died during periods of extended famine in the 1990’s. Industry collapsed. Stories of people boiling grass and stripping bark off of trees in a fevered search for food are common. During this time the government was using food to enforce political loyalty. More recently, the inmate population of prison camps have been deliberately culled thru starvation. Starvation is also used to elicit confessions. A UN commission in 2014 found hunger and malnutrition wide-spread throughout the country. The commission further claimed North Korea actively “violates the right to adequate food and freedom from hunger.”
A ‘Serious Threat’
The North Korean government targets religion with a laser like focus and considers it a ‘serious threat’ to the regime. Christians have ranked North Korea as the worst country in the world for religious suppression. The government believes religion “provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the state (Wikipedia).” Christians are barred from practicing their beliefs and are subject to severe consequences. Simply reading the Bible could lead to a death sentence if discovered. Religious assembly or religious association is prohibited.
In January 2016 a 22-year-old American student, Otto Warmbier, was arrested by North Korean authorities. Warmbier was on a group tour of North Korea when arrested. Warmbier was accused of attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel room. After a kangaroo court appearance Warmbier was sentenced to an unbelievable 15 years hard labor in a North Korean gulag.
A Trip Home
In June of 2017 Otto Warmbier was returned to the United States in a coma. Warmbier was hospitalized in Cincinnati OH and died six days later without ever regaining consciousness. There is little doubt in Intelligence circles that Kim Jong-un had ordered the young man tortured, beaten and starved. Although reducing Warmbier to a vegetative state is unlikely the intended result. Kim Jong-un denied having any knowledge of what happened to Otto Warmbier. President Trump states he believes Kim Jong-un’s denial.
North Korea (DPRK) is the only country to have withdrawn from the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty to pursue a nuclear weapons program. Kim Jong-il had tested nuclear explosive devices in 2006 and 2009. Jong-il defied international law and stood resolute to international condemnation. Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea has continued development of missile technology and nuclear testing that had begun under his father. In April 2012 he launched a satellite that failed at take-off. That same year in December, he again launched a long-range missile. Kim followed that successful launch with his third underground nuclear test. The UN Security Council has imposed severe economic sanctions on North Korea and Kim Jong-un personally.
North Korea Against The World
Part of the national mythology is that North Korea is in constant danger with all world powers ready to attack. Kim Jong-un has pursued a military-first policy. In addition Pyongyang has engaged in “provocative” activities and saber-rattling and ear-piercing condemnations directed at the standard enemies, United States and Japan. While ramping up agitation, Kim Jong-un began launching missiles and nuclear weapons testing. As the cycle intensified many feared the worst.
Amidst Rhetoric and Bluster
Early in 2017 Kim Jong-un bragged to the world about the advancement of North Korea’s missile and nuclear program in a speech. He noted successful testing of a hydrogen bomb in 2016 and predicted the “final stage of preparation for the test launch of an ICBM.” In July 2017 successfully tested an ICBM. At about the same time it was leaked by U.S. intelligence officials that Kim Jong-un had produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of fitting on to the ICBM tested in July.
Fire and Fury
It was during this time that Kim and the President of the United States began an unprecedented Twitter war. In fact, the threats and insults had many observers reconsidering bomb shelters. At one point Trump calling Kim “little rocket man” and Kim firing back, calling Trump a “dotard”. Both alternately claimed he had the biggest button. Trump at one point in the firestorm of words said, “they (North Korea) will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
North Meets South
While on the other side of the world, newly elected South Korean president Moon Jae-in began working quietly pursuing a policy of openness toward North Korea. Kim Jong-un was reciprocating with charm and encouragement. The “sunshine” diplomacy toward North Korea initiated by the previous South Korean government had been put on hold. Kim Jong-un’s escalation of bombastic rhetoric and threatening missile firings had endangered the warming relationship between the once united country, now separated by more than a demilitarized zone.
Due to Moon’s persistent efforts North and South Korean athletes marched in the opening ceremonies in January 2018 at Pyeongchang, S.K. Winter Olympic Games. It was a powerful image seeing the two countries coming together as a single body and under a unified flag. Although forgoing his own or his wife’s appearance, Kim sent a high level delegation. The delegation included his sister, Kim Yo-jong, the President of the North Korean Presidium, and the renowned Samjiyon Orchestra. Kim Jong-un also sent a handwritten note to Moon Jae-in inviting him to come to Pyongyang “at the earliest date possible.”
Ri Sol Ju “Respected First Lady”
North Korean observers believe that Kim Jong-il approved the marriage of Kim Jong-un to a beautiful singer and cheerleader, Ri Sol Ju, in 2009 immediately after he suffered a stroke. The couple has at least one child, a daughter, Ju-ae, who was born in 2012. The couple is believed to have three children, another girl, and a son. Since his marriage, the charming Sol-Ju has often appeared in public. This breaks with earlier protocol where wives and mistresses were kept out of the spotlight. Ri Sol Ju has become a fashion icon in North Korea. She is a style leader, appearing in public wearing high heels and designer dresses that reflect western style and taste. Ri Sol Ju is addressed as “Respected First Lady.” Despite his marriage, the “Supreme Leader” is a known womanizer and is reported to have at least three mistresses.
Outlining Common Goals
In April 2018 the leaders of both North and South Korea held a joint summit in the demilitarized zone. At the meeting the two leaders “confirmed the common goal of realizing through complete denuclearization, a nuclear free Korean peninsula. In what appeared to be an olive branch to the United States, Kim Jong-un declared a halt to all nuclear and ICBM tests, pledging to close their nuclear test site. The Punggye-ri nuclear test site was destroyed in May of 2018 including underground tunnels and surface facilities in front of journalists from around the world.
After months of blistering and often heated rhetoric Kim Jong-un met on June 12, 2018 with U.S. president, Donald Trump in Singapore. At the meeting Kim signed a declaration affirming a commitment to peace and nuclear disarmament. During that 2018 summit Trump mentioned his intention to end U.S.-South Korea military exercises and remove U.S. troops from South Korea at a future date. On June 13th Trump went so far as to claim that “there is no longer a threat from North Korea.” Trump made this claim despite clear evidence that North Korea was controlling a considerable nuclear arsenal and long-range ballistic missile systems. The summit did not yield any substantive denuclearization plan. Trump after the meeting said, “I learned he was a talented man. I also learned he loves his country very much.” Adding, “he is very smart” and has a “great personality.”
A month after the June 2o18 Summit it was disclosed that North Korea had maintained a covert uranium enrichment site at Kangson and may in fact be concealing other nuclear sites from the international community. Experts caution that North Korean statements supportive of denuclearization in principle does not equate to them relinquishing their nuclear weapons. Korean expert Jeffrey Lewis phrased it thusly, “Kim’s statements instead suggest a willingness to engage in a process, headed toward an ambiguous goal.”
Refuses To Become Another Libya
North Korean experts believe that Kim Jong-un will never agree to denuclearization. Kim Jong-un sees his nuclear arsenal as a guarantee of his regime’s survival. It is believed Kim has a stockpile of up to 60 bombs, including hydrogen bombs. The Kwasong-15 missile is capable of striking any target in the mainland United States. These factors give the United States at least sixty reasons for supporting denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Every dictator in the world remembers what happened to Muammar al-Gaddafi when he gave up his nuclear weapons. In case you have forgotten; Libya’s dictator was toppled by insurgents supported by the United States and other western countries. It is not expected that Kim Jong-un will succumb to threats from U.S. National Security Advisor, John Bolton and VP Mike Pence; or love notes from his new best buddy, Donald Trump.
With little preparation and with no identified goals, the reckless U.S. president and the man from Pyongyang decided to meet again, this time in Hanoi, Vietnam on February 27th and 28th, 2019. An awe-struck president Trump, prior to the meeting, in gushing, unreserved enthusiasm effused Kim’s finer points. Saying strangely, “We fell in love. He (Kim Jong-un) wrote me beautiful letters. We get along so well.” Unfortunately, something was amiss when the two met in Hanoi. While Kim Jong-un seems to be loving the attention of the world he also appears to be playing the U.S. president.
Trump was being touted as a Nobel Peace candidate prior to the summit. It was fully expected that Trump was about to win big and bring back an agreement from Hanoi. Insiders have told reporters that the papers were all ready for signatures but there was a glitch. Kim Jong-un said, no. Trump is known to have asked Kim to shut down all his weapons programs-nuclear, chemical, and biological. Once that was accomplished, the United States would remove all sanctions. Kim said, no. Hell, no. It was at that time that it was decided to cancel the planned lunch and signing ceremony. Trump would later hit Twitter.
On Twitter Trump said that if it wasn’t for the bad publicity created by the Democrats televising the Michael Cohen testimony on world-wide television he could have made the deal. Well, I always doubt proclamations that start with, “If it hadn’t been for…the Democrats.” Really? The Democrats.
Let’s look at that Tweet: “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar and fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the “walk.” Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Many including myself believe Trump got screwed and the screwing was of his own making. The Dems had nothing to do with it. Kim Jong-un was the one that walked. He had already gotten everything he wanted from Trump. Kim Jong-un had been legitimized by the most powerful leader in the world. They had sat down as equals.
Leaving The Past Behind
Kim Jong-un is without a doubt feeling more comfortable in his world position. Breaking with tradition he even responded to several questions from reporters. After the failed summit, it was reported that Kim was “walking around touring hot spots in Vietnam. He no longer looks like a pariah,” Margaret Brennan stated on Face the Nation. His sister and his wife are credited with humanizing him. Both his sister and his wife are bringing a western flair to the regime, both making frequent appearances for the dictator. They in fact, seem to be actively working at creating a cult of personality. Fat and smiling. Always smiling for the cameras. Waving happily to adoring and cheering crowds.
Smiling and waving
Kim Jong-un wants to be popular. He wants to be a success. He is known to interact cordially with people and seems to love having his picture taken with kids. He truly seems to enjoy the meet and greets that are carefully orchestrated to make the “Supreme Leader” look good. Smiling, friendly, safe, that’s the image that he is trying to project. Forget all those dead people littering his history. Kim Jong-un is ready for the world to fall in love with him.
Fame Never Imagined
He is a modern man who is comfortable using social media. Kim Jong-un takes his story to television in North Korea. He communicates with the world on Twitter. President Trump has multiplied Jong-un’s personal creds by meeting with the North Korean leader twice, in high-profile summits. Whether intentionally or foolishly Trump has validated Kim Jong-un power and importance. Trump through his direct one-to-one diplomacy with Kim Jong-un has raised this brutal dictator to an international level of fame and recognition previously unimaginable.
North Korea Strategy In Chaos
On the Saturday after the unsuccessful summit, American and South Korean military defense heads agreed to end two major joint military exercises, to tamper down tensions with North Korea. Trump wants the threat of nuclear weapons removed from North Korea, but he also wants better relations between the two countries. Kim’s motives are not as clear, but most agree he wants 1.) international respect 2.) halting all combined U.S. & South Korea military exercises 3.) removal of U.S. troops from South Korea 4.) wants sanctions removed 5) wants economic assistance and development aid.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Pyongyang attacked over 100 targets while Trump and Kim were meeting in Hanoi. The North Koreans have a top-notch cyber program. They are bad actors. They are brazen in their lawlessness. The target of the most recent attack appears to be US banks and energy companies, with a significant number of the companies located in Houston, Tx.
Past Cyber Crimes
North Korean cyber thugs used a ransomware called WannaCry in 2017 to scramble victims files and then black mailed the effected business’ for money to unscramble the files. The British health care system was sent into chaos. Furthermore, it is believed that Jong-un regime was behind the $81 million cyber heist of the Bangladesh Central Bank. In 2014, Sony Pictures was hacked just as the studio was preparing to release a comedy about the murder of Kim Jong-un.
The brazen activities of the hackers while Kim Jong-un had lunch with president Trump is an amazing insult and a strong sign that there is more than just a few nuclear weapons between the United States and North Korea. Nothing goes on in North Korea without the permission of the “Supreme Leader.” The motives for these attacks is unclear other than to attack the intellectual property of US banks and energy companies.
But, why do it during the summit? It seems obvious that if Kim Jong-un was serious about relaxing tensions he would have instructed his hacker squad to take a brief vacation while the two leaders dined. The very fact that Kim Jong-un thought it unimportant enough to stop the cyber attacks for even a couple of days, gives a chilling insight into Kim’s estimation of the future of his love affair with Trump and the US-North Korean relations.
Kim Jong-un is a bit of a physical disaster. It is known he has bad knees and bad ankles. He has been seen using a cane many times. It is believed he was involved in at least one, possibly two nasty automobile accidents in 2008, while racing one of his many expensive sports cars. Apparently he likes speed and taking risks. Kim Jong-un is 5’5″ tall and weighs in at about 300 lbs. That alone is quite a risk. Kim Jong-un is 36 years old. He has diabetes and hypertension, smokes cigarettes and drinks whiskey. If Kim Jong-un does not change his ways he may have a short reign. Instead of a U.S. missile taking out the regime, it is just as likely to end with a massive heart attack or stroke. As with most things. We will just have to wait and see as the man from Pyongyang takes a dramatic leap onto the world’s main stage.