NW Week

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Kim Jong Un has grown from a baby-faced leader to a nuclear hard man

Kim Jong Un

Key Takeaways:

  • Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent, looks back on Kim’s first ten years in power in North Korea.
  • Kim Jong Un began his reign as a baby-faced despot.
  • He is now one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, having been in power for ten years.

After his father’s death, Kim Jong-Il, in 2011, this did not appear to be a foregone conclusion.

Most observers predicted that the millennial Kim would be unable to maintain control over the generals, resulting in the Kim dynasty’s demise. Or that, as a Western-educated basketball aficionado, he would lead socialist North Korea through market reforms, as China and Vietnam have done.

Both were incorrect. Kim quickly demonstrated his ruthlessness. Jang Song-thaek, his uncle, was executed in 2013.

Also Read: Changing military culture can take up to five years according to a senior officer

He assassinated his half-brother Kim Jong-Nam, the previous heir apparent, in 2017. As he arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport, Kim Jong-Nam was smeared with VX, a lethal nerve agent. He died 20 minutes later.

According to a information by the Transitional Justice Working Group, a South Korean NGO. There have been 23 public executions since Kim Jong-un took power. The majority of which have been carried out by firing squad. However, the actual figure is most likely much higher.

North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un; Image from The Guardian News

Those who extolled Kim’s Swiss education should recall the examples of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Egypt’s Gamal Mubarak, and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, all of whom were educated in the West. Posh schools do not preclude cold-bloodedness, especially when power is at stake.

There were some hints about economic reform. For example, Kim announced his byugjin policy of concurrent economic and military development in 2016. And it was notable that Korean state media were eager to show images of Singapore’s wealth when he visited for the first summit with President Donald Trump more on that later.

However, military might has always trumped economics. As a result, North Korea prioritized missile development over everything else. This resulted in sanctions and a state of emergency, along with the impact of COVID and fewer Chinese imports.

Kim started this year that the country was facing another “arduous march,” a term also used to refer to a famine in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Source: Sky News

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