How Kim Jong Un became the most bloodthirsty dictator in the world

SEOUL — Ten years after the death of North Korea’s long-ruling father, Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un’s youngest son, has died. one person rule cruelly tightened but failed miserably to meet the basic needs of the vast majority of his country’s 25.6 million poor.

The boy was only 27 years old, with almost no experience, when his father died suddenly at the age of 70 on December 17, 2011. To the shock of skeptics that he was capable of working and will soon fall from grace and power, he cast aside. his relatives and his father’s aides in asserting control over the ruling Workers’ Party and the vast armed forces.

Now 37, mature in middle age, Kim Jong Un can look back on a decade in which he ordered the execution of hundreds of opponents, officials and military officers seen as threatening his unflinching grip on a dynasty that his grandfather His grandfather, Kim Il-sung, was installed by the Soviet Union in 1945. The way he also ordered four nuclear tests and dozens of missile flights showed that North Korea posed a threat to its neighbors as well. nearest neighbors are South Korea and Japan as well as targets in the US

But Kim can swinging such a terrifying weapon while his health declines in tandem, it seems, with the economy?

“He did well for the first four or five years,” said Choi Jin-wook, president of the Center for Strategic and Cultural Studies in Seoul. “Now he’s trying to get out of economic trouble.” To do that, Choi told The Daily Beast, “He’s trying to please his people,” but “he can’t because of the tough economy.” Since COVID led Mr Kim early last year to close the Yalu and Tumen river borders with China, trade is “10% of what it was in previous years”. Choi. “Oil and food are almost nothing. He failed in every sense.”

To secure power, however, Kim wiped out anyone who might question – much less challenge – his authority starting with his father’s two most senior aides.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Ri Yong Ho was ousted and executed in July 2012. In December 2013, Kim’s groom, Jang Song Thaek, who was married to Kim Jong Il’s sister, was dragged out of a politburo meeting and beaten before his execution on various charges, mainly related to corruption. Both Ri and Jang walked with Kim Jong Un for three hours on a snowy day in December 2011 next to a hearse carrying Kim Jong Il’s coffin and are said to be guiding the young man about manufacturing.

Kim Jong Un salutes as he and his uncle Jang Song-thaek (3rd) ride with a hearse carrying Kim Jong Il’s coffin during his funeral in Pyongyang on December 28, 2011.

Kyodo / Reuters

Then, most amazingly, Kim’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was murdered in February 2017 at Kuala Lumpur airport by two young women who were paid small sums of money by North Korean agents. to smear what they supposedly watered him in the face as a joke. Water turns out to be the nerve gas VX.

These three deaths signify the mass killing of others who may be close to them. At Kim’s behest, the regime has also sought to destroy what he calls the “evil cancer” of Korean popular culture as exemplified in K-Pop and Squid fishing game, sneaking into the country is at serious risk.

This week, the Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group said many of those caught “watching or distributing Korean videos” had been executed. Based on interviews with 683 North Korean escapees, The report lists 27 official burial sites and details 23 executions. “Interviews reported that the inhumane treatment of defendants prior to execution — used as a warning to the public — persisted under Kim Jong Un” although “in some cases In case, pardons were issued” to show his “benevolence”.

Executions, which often took place in public, were customary during the dynasties of both Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994, and later Kim Jong Il, but “after Kim Jong Un ascended to the throne” in power, it gets worse,” said Ji Seung-ho, who fled North Korea in 2006. Ji, now a member of the South Korean National Assembly, told members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Seoul that the new leader, less than 30 years old, “begins to target the elite bureaucracy”. Ji said, the reason is “to show his strength.”


A North Korean soldier stands in front of an audience during a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on October 10, 2015.

Ed Jones/AFP via Getty

At the same time, fearing unbridled military influence, Kim sought to elevate the party above the armed forces, some 1.2 million troops on active duty, including tens of thousands within miles. around the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Ji said that until Kim Jong un came to power, “it was the first army”. “He has moved to put more power in the party,” said himself as general secretary of the party and chairman of the state affairs committee.

Robert Collins, author of books and research on power struggles in North Korea, ranks control of the party’s Organization and Guidance Department as Kim’s “greatest achievement”. Under Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, deputy director of the department, that agency is “Control tower of the mode” Collins told The Daily Beast. “Such control is crucial to his continued rule.”

After Kim emerged as a powerful ruler in his own right, he reached his highest degree of visibility in the eyes of the world. Donald Trump in 2017, the first year of his presidency, in response to nuclear and missile tests, famously called him “rocket man” and threatened in a United Nations speech. The United Nations would “totally destroy” him.

Those angry words were a prelude to heart-melting when the two met in Singapore in June 2018 for the first summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea. Trump, convinced that Kim would start giving up his nuclear weapons after they both signed a joint statement pledging to work for the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” then said they were “in love.” .


President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after their meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 27, 2019.


However, the passion faded when Trump walked out of the next Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi in February 2019 with Kim refusing to give in to demands for denuclearization and the US refusing to give in. waive sanctions.

North Korea’s nuclear complex at Yongbyon is operating, making warheads and missiles, according to 38 North, a think tank that monitors North Korea from Washington.

Kim this year ordered the test of hypersonic and submarine-launched ballistic missiles but has not tested nuclear since September 2017.

He now faces economic challenges that have much to do with shifting focus from the military to party power. In fact, “for a considerable amount of time, Kim seemed to have lost control of the North Korean economy,” said Bruce Bennett at the RAND Corporation. Their own capital makes many individuals rich and can bribe government officials, avoiding Kim’s control.”

What is most disturbing, however, is that the mass famine is reminiscent of the famine of the 1990s that claimed the lives of about two million people from hunger and disease.

Bennett told The Daily Beast: “The difficulty of feeding the people, and especially their elites, was a huge setback for Kim. He had “hoped to stimulate patriotic action that will increase crop yields and meet food needs, while also increasing the productivity of the rest of the North Korean economy.” He doesn’t seem to have much success in this – it’s a huge failure. ”

However, if the outlook is cloudy, Kim has undeniably proved his bravery as a dictator. Skeptics have underestimated the extent to which Kim Jong Il prepared his son to lead and chose his second son to succeed him precisely because of the man’s reputation for cunning and ruthlessness. young man,” said Evans Revere, a retired American diplomat who has followed Kim’s development. closely in Seoul and Washington.

After “brutal consolidation of power,” Revere said, he “filled the upper echelons of the Party, the security services and the military with a more loyal youth group.” Now, “having firmly taken control, the only real threats to his rule appear to be a bohemian lifestyle and bad genes”.

However, the Korean people paid the price. New York-based Human Rights Watch alleges that Kim has “expanded surveillance and repression of aggression against the North Koreans, denied the people freedom of movement within the country and across borders, and in response to Pandemic caused by covid-19 with increased food insecurity threatening widespread hunger”. While he “opened up the economy and eased the massive crackdown on traders’ markets,” HRW said“Illegal border crossings are virtually impossible, corrupt practices have been normalized, and government ‘requirements’ for unpaid labor have increased.”

Indeed, Kim’s ascension to absolute power “was very costly for the North Korean people,” said Daniel Pinkston, a longtime North Korea analyst at the Troy University campus in South Korea. Kim “and those within him are ruthless, and they are willing and able to pass the costs of the regime’s existence on to the people.”


Kim Jong Un in an undated photo released on December 7, 2021.

KCNA via Reuters

As always, though, “the interesting variable is Kim’s health,” Pinkston told The Daily Beast. Kim has lost about 45 pounds recently. He’s down to about 265 pounds, judging from the photos distributed from Pyongyang, he looks pretty good but there’s no telling how long he’ll be here.

“If Kim is no longer the leader, can someone who is not a member of the Kim family step in and use the legends that have praised the Kim family for more than half a century?” Pinkston asked rhetorically. “I doubt. So is Kim’s recent weight loss due to illness? Or was it a deliberate choice to improve his health? If the former and he cannot rule for long, then the possibility of instability for the party and the state is much greater.” How Kim Jong Un became the most bloodthirsty dictator in the world


ClareFora is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. ClareFora joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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