Dec. 18, 2011 Breaking News: Kim Jong-il Dead
North Korean state television reported on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 that Kim Jong-Il died of a heart attack on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011 at the age of 69.
Kim Jong Un anointed next leader of North Korea
North Korea’s next ruler raises red flags for West (NBC Nightly News, Oct. 10, 2010) – Kim Jong Un, a young man with little experience in global negotiation, will soon control the fifth largest army in the world. NBC’s Angus Walker reports. (01:27)
By Jean H. Lee
October 11, 2010
PYONGYANG, North Korea — The party in Pyongyang stretched into Monday as North Koreans took the day off to celebrate a major political anniversary and to revel in the unveiling of leader Kim Jong Il’s heir-apparent, son Kim Jong Un. …
It was a national holiday, the last day of a long weekend of festivities to mark the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party founded by late President Kim Il Sung. The anniversary was more than just a milestone: It also provided North Koreans with a glimpse into the future as they got a good look at the young man slated to become their next leader.
“He has President Kim Il Sung’s face,” said Pak Chol, a 23-year-old who said he watched the live broadcast at home showing Kim Jong Un making his first major public appearance Sunday by joining his father for a massive military parade through the Pyongyang plaza named after his grandfather.
Until two weeks ago, Kim Jong Un’s anointment as his father’s successor was little more than rumor and speculation outside North Korea.
But his promotion to four-star general late last month, followed by his appointment to key political posts within the Workers’ Party, confirmed what had been suspected for more than a year: that he is being groomed to succeed his 68-year-old father and to take the Kim family dynasty into a third generation.
Believed to be 26, the untested son would face a mountain of challenges if he were to take over soon as leader, including tensions with regional powers over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and a faltering economy further strained by sanctions imposed by the U.S. and United Nations. …
[North Koreans] seemed ready to embrace the son already familiarly known as the Young General. Though he has been a figure of mystery outside North Korea, adulation of the heir-apparent is already well in place inside the country. …
“We had heard that when the Young General was young, he was admired by everyone who met him for his intelligence and good personality,” [Pak Chol] said.
After three public appearances in two days, the two Kims stayed out of the spotlight Monday. Kim Jong Il held talks with Zhou Yongkang, a high-ranking member of the Communist Party of China’s politburo, state-run media said. …
October 12, 2010
The oldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il says he is opposed to the idea of dynastic succession in his country but wishes the best for his brother who has been chosen by their father as heir.
Kim Jong-nam, who is known to live in China and Macau, told Japan’s TV Asahi that he personally had no interest in becoming leader, indicating there was no power struggle between the siblings, who are believed to have different mothers. …
The portly oldest son of leader Kim Jong-il has been thought to have fallen out of his father’s favor, especially after he was deported from Japan on suspicion of trying to enter Japan with forged travel documents to go to Tokyo Disneyland.
Jong-nam, believed to be 39, has spoken to reporters several times mostly in Beijing, answering questions in Korean and in nearly fluent English, and has rejected the idea that he will try to take over power from his father. …
“I want my brother to do his best for the North Korean people, for their prosperity,” he said in Korean. “I am ready to help my brother at any time overseas if he needs me to.”
Jong-nam is believed to be the son of an actress who later died in Moscow. The mother of his two brothers, including the youngest Jong-un, was a dancer. …
North Korea flexing muscles amid power shift (NBC “Today,” Nov. 27, 2010) – Former Ambassador Wendy Sherman says that North Korea is trying to project an image of strength with its recent attack on Yeonpyeong Island as Kim Jong-il begins to transition power to his son. (02:48)
North Korea leader Kim Jong Il’s son Kim Jong Un attends a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Oct. 10, 2010. (Photo credit: Vincent Yu / AP)
By Jean H. Lee
October 10, 2011
PYONGYANG, North Korea — The Illustrious General has had a busy year.
Since making his international debut a year ago Monday, Kim Jong Un has been serving as military strategist, political statesman and trusted deputy to his father, leader Kim Jong Il.
The newly minted four-star general, believed in his late 20s, is widely credited at home with orchestrating a deadly artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island that nearly brought the foes to the brink of another war. He appears regularly with his father at marquee events and accompanies him on inspection trips to farms and factories — visits now commemorated with plaques bearing his name.
Officials even say Jong Un, who was on hand for a recent state visit by Laos’ president, has been entrusted with full leadership of the country while his father has made extended trips to China and Russia over the last year.
At least that’s the official portrait emerging of the young man who in just one year has cemented his status as North Korea’s next leader. …
Kim Jong Un rides a horse in this undated still image taken from video released by North Korean state TV KRT on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012. (Photo credit: KRT via Reuters)
Kim Jong Un called ‘supreme leader’ of military (AP, Dec. 24, 2011) — North Korea hailed Kim Jong Il’s son as “supreme leader” of the 1.2-million strong military, ramping up its campaign to install the young man as the next leader of the communist nation even as millions continue mourning the father a week after his death. … Full story
Kim Jong Un inspects an armored vehicle in this undated still image taken from video released by North Korean state TV KRT on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012. (Photo credit: KRT via Reuters)
Kim Jong Un vowed ‘real war’ if rocket was shot down (AP, Reuters, Jan. 8, 2012) — North Korea’s young leader vowed in 2009 to wage war if the country’s enemies shot down a rocket, footage aired on state television showed Sunday in the first official word of his role in military operations before his father’s death. The documentary … was aimed at showing that he was in charge of the armed forces long before his father, former leader Kim Jong Il, died of a heart attack last month. …He has pledged to uphold Kim Jong Il’s “military first” policy. … Full story
Kim Jong Un takes power in North Korea (NBC Nightly News, Dec. 29, 2011) – North Korea pauses to mourn Kim Jong Il, with the somber memorial service in Pyongyang being marked by three minutes of silence for their fallen leader. NBC’s Angus Walker reports. (2:08)
The Associated Press via MSNBC.com
January 17, 2012
PYONGYANG, North Korea — Kim Jong Il’s eldest son has predicted that North Korea’s regime will “not last long” under the rule of his half brother, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
Citing e-mails exchanged between Kim Jong Nam and a Japanese journalist, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper said that the dictator’s son described the country’s dynastic succession as “a joke to the outside world.”
Kim Jong Nam also predicted that his half brother Kim Jong Un would be “just a nominal figure,” adding: “The members of the power elite will be the ones in actual power.”
Kim Jong Un was vaulted into the leadership role with the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December. He had made his public debut as anointed successor only 15 months earlier.
His half brother suggested that North Korea’s new leader, who is believed to be aged 27, faced many challenges.
“Without reforms, North Korea will collapse, and when such changes take place, the regime will collapse,” the newspaper quoted Kim Jong Nam as saying. “The Kim Jong Un regime will not last long.” …
Among Kim Jong Il’s three sons, Kim Jong Un is seen as most like his father in manner and personality.
Kim Jong Nam is aged about 40 and is known for his playboy lifestyle and love of casinos. He is believed to have fallen out of favor with his father after being caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001 saying he wanted to visit Disney’s Tokyo resort. Kim Jong Nam has lived in China in recent years.
Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, waves after an interview in Macau in June 2010. (Photo credit: Joongang Sunday / AFP — Getty Images)
“Because I was educated in the West, I was able to enjoy freedom from early age, and I still love being free,” Kim Jong Nam reportedly told the Japanese journalist. “The reason I visit Macau so often is because it’s the most free and liberal place near China, where my family lives.”
According to Chosun Ilbo, Kim Jong Nam said his half brother had traveled to Japan in the past using a “fake Brazilian passport.”
Chosun Ilbo said Yoji Komi, a former Seoul correspondent for Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, exchanged almost 100 emails with Kim Jong Nam between 2004 and December. They also spoke on at least two occasions. …
Kim Jong Un promises ‘happy and civilized’ North Korea (Reuters and NBC News, Aug. 3, 2012) – North Korea’s new young leader has told chief backer China that his priority is to develop the decaying economy and improve living standards in one of the world’s poorest states, the latest sign that he may be planning economic reforms. Kim Jong Un, who took over the family dictatorship last December, has presented a sharply contrasting image to his austere father. He was shown most recently in public at a Pyongyang theme park with his young wife on his arm and riding a roller coaster in the company of a man reported to be a British diplomat. … Full story
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch a basketball game in Pyongyang on Feb. 28, 2013 in this image released by North Korea’s official news agency. (Photo credit: KCNA via AFP / Getty Images)
By Erin McClam
March 5, 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry took a shot Tuesday at eccentric former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s controversial visit to North Korea.
“Dennis Rodman was a great basketball player,” Kerry told NBC News. “And as a diplomat, he is a great basketball player. And that’s where we’ll leave it.”
Kerry spoke in Doha, Qatar, for an interview to air later in the day on “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC.
Rodman visited North Korea last week and met with leader Kim Jong Un, pronouncing him an “awesome guy.” In Pyongyang, on his way out of the country, the lip-studded basketball player said of Kim: “Guess what? I love him.”
The visit did not sit well with the White House, which denounced it as a “celebrity sporting event” for a repressive regime and said North Korea should focus on the well-being of its own people, “who have been starved, imprisoned and denied their human rights.” …
Rodman: Kim Jong-un ‘awesome’ (NBC Nightly News, March 1, 2013) – The odd couple Dennis Rodman and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have been seen together frequently ever since the Harlem Globetrotters arrived in North Korea to film a TV show. NBC’s Brian Williams reports. (00:21)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting with his generals where he ordered strategic rocket forces to be on standby to strike U.S. and South Korean targets. [Note: The map against the wall appears to show the West coast of the United States, with the text reading 미본토타격계획 ("U.S. Mainland Strike Plan").] (Photo credit: KCNA via EPA)
Is Kim Jong Un crazy — or crazy like a fox?
Analysts said Friday there’s a familiar method to the madness coming out of North Korea, where the rookie supreme leader has put rockets on standby, threatened to “settle accounts” with the U.S., and posed near a chart that appeared to map missile strikes on American cities. On Saturday, North Korea said it had entered a “state of war” against South Korea, according to a statement reported by the north’s official news agency, KCNA.
Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather were also serial saber-rattlers when they headed the secretive regime, and experts said there are clear strategic reasons why the world’s youngest head of state is ramping up the rhetoric now, after little more than a year in power.
But if the bluster is predictable, the results may not be.
North Korea has enhanced its nuclear capabilities and Kim Jong Un has something to prove to his people and the world. Some outside observers are warning that a misstep, or overstep, by Pyongyang could bring north[east] Asia to the brink of war.
“I think there is always room for miscalculation and things spiraling out of control,” said Sung-Youn Lee, professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “But he is following the playbook set by his father and grandfather.”
North Korea is “very adept at engaging at psychological warfare,” Lee said. It cranks up the tensions, putting pressure on Seoul and Washington, and is rewarded with aid and concessions when it tones things down, Lee said.
“No leader wants a foreign policy crisis created by North Korea on their hands … the impulse is to de-escalate,” Lee added. “North Korea has been very good at playing this game — nuclear diplomacy, even extortion — for the past 20 years.”
This time around, foreign-policy watchers said, a confluence of circumstances have set the stage for Kim Jong Un’s provocations:
Joel Wit, visiting fellow at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said that from the North Korean perspective, Kim Jong Un and his lieutenants “aren’t crazy” and are falling back on a tried-and-true strategy.
“They’re a very small country dealing with much more powerful countries, and they can’t show any weakness. For them, the best defense is a good offense,” he said.
Yet Snyder said Kim Jong Un’s standing as a new, untested ruler is “the real wild-card factor that makes this different.” …
A hit on U.S. targets seems highly unlikely and would be “suicidal,” Lee said. But South Korea and Japan are within striking distance, and many experts say it’s not impossible that Kim Jong Un could act rashly.
“While these weapons can’t reach the U.S., it’s an extremely tense situation, and wars don’t always start logically,” Wit said. …
Pyongyang blusters, and U.S. worries about quieter risks (Choe Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, New York Times, March 30, 2013) — “We’re all trying to put [Kim Jung-un] on the couch,” said Jonathan D. Pollack, a North Korea expert at the Brookings Institution. “A year ago the U.S. and the Chinese saw at least the possibility that you could do business with him. But he has steadily reverted to form,” adopting the approach of his father and grandfather in using the perception of an external threat to solidify support at home. … Full report
Aggressive talk from North Korea concerns U.S. leaders (Ernesto Londoño and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, March 30, 2013) – The senior official agreed that Kim’s style is sharply different from his father’s, “including putting himself out in front of the cameras. He’s got a sort of assertive, outgoing and more egocentric character. His father was very reclusive and preferred to shove other people out into the limelight.” … Deterrence involves both prevention and punishment, Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. … “We believe that this young lad ought to be deterred,” Winnefeld said, referring to Kim. “And if he’s not, we’ll be ready.” … Full report
Analysis: What’s Kim Jong Un up to? (Joe Sterling, CNN, March 28, 2013) — Is [Kim Jung-un's] behavior erratic or staged? Is he competent enough to run a government? … Is Kim insane? David Kang and Victor Cha, writing in Foreign Policy, say “don’t bet on it.” They say he’s a contrast to his introverted dad, Kim Jong Il. In power for more than a year, Kim is very much an extrovert who loves to appear in public, watch his beloved hoops and deliver speeches. … This month, a senior administration official told CNN that Kim Jong Un was “acting in ways a bit more extreme than his father, who was colder and more calculated.” … Kang and Cha said the question that should be asked about Kim is whether he is turning out to be adventurous or cautious. … Full report
Young Kim looks to build his own legacy in North Korea (Paul Armstrong, CNN, February 12, 2013) — Far from floundering in his own inexperience, Kim has worked swiftly to consolidate his power base domestically by replacing senior figures in the military — many loyal to his father — with his own people. … But some North Korea watchers believe the Swiss-educated fan of Western movies and basketball lacks the absolute power enjoyed by his father and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. “I believe he is in overall control of the Korea Workers Party, the military, and the state — but with the help of his uncle, Jang Sung-taek, and his family confidante, Choe Ryong Hae, chief of the general political bureau of the Korea People’s Army,” said Chung-in Moon, Professor of Political Science at Yonsei University in South Korea. … Moon added that his aunt, Kim Kyung-hee, is the other main influence on the younger Kim. … Full report
Related reports on this site
Kim Jong-Un (front row, center), youngest son of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Il, attends a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. (Photo credit: Reuters)
North Korea Steps Up Nuclear Threat Against U.S. (Jan. 27, 2013)
Looming North Korean Nuclear Threat (Jan. 11, 2011)
North Korean Nuclear Jihad (Dec. 23, 2010)
Adm. Mullen Puts Kim Jong-il on Notice (Dec. 8, 2010)
Push Could Come to Shove in Korea (Dec. 6, 2010)
Winds of War in Korea (Nov. 25, 2010)
Perilous Flare-Up of Korean War (Nov. 24, 2010)
North Korea ‘Very Dangerous’ (Nov. 22, 2010)
North Korea Threatens ‘Sacred War’ (July 23, 2010)
No Chinese Support on North Korea (May 30, 2010)
North Korea Fraud Charge (May 28, 2010)
North Korean Saber-Rattling (May 20, 2010)
Iran, North Korea Threat Level Rises (Dec. 13, 2009)
North Korea Ready to Deal? (July 26, 2009)
Independence Day Missile Barrage (July 4, 2009)
North Korea Nuclear Threat (June 16, 2009)
Kim Jong Il Threat Assessment (May 31, 2009)
Tensions Rise in Korean Peninsula (May 30, 2009)
Tense Stand-off with North Korea (May 28, 2009)
North Korea Warns of Possible Military Action (May 27, 2009)
North Korea Launches Rocket (April 5, 2009)
U.S. Warns N. Korea on Missiles (Feb. 17, 2009)
Korea Headache Looms for Obama (Jan. 28, 2009)
Obama Faces Daunting Challenges (Nov. 6, 2008)
Featured report: Kim Jong-Il Threat Assessment
The Personality Profile
of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il
Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
The Life of Kim Jong Il
A pictorial look at the North Korean leader through the years
A remote psychological assessment of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was conducted mining open-source data in the public domain. Information concerning Kim was collected from media reports and synthesized into a personality profile using the second edition of the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with Axis II of DSM-IV.
The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Kim’s primary personality patterns were found to be Ambitious/self-serving (narcissistic) and Outgoing/gregarious (histrionic), with a secondary Dauntless/dissenting (antisocial) pattern. In addition, the personality profile contained subsidiary but relatively unremarkable Dominant/asserting (sadistic), Contentious/resolute (passive-aggressive), and Erratic/unstable (borderline) features.
The amalgam of Ambitious (narcissistic) and Outgoing (histrionic) patterns in Kim’s profile suggests the presence of a syndrome that Theodore Millon has labeled the “amorous narcissist” (relabeled hedonistic narcissist in the context of political leadership studies). These personalities have an indifferent conscience and aloofness to the truth, are facile in the ways of social seduction, feign an air of dignity and confidence, and are skilled in the art of deception.
Characteristically, these personalities fabricate stories to enhance their worth and leave behind a trail of broken promises and outrageous acts, including swindling, sexual indiscretions, pathological lying, and fraud. However, the hedonistic narcissist’s disregard for truth and talents for exploitation and deception are rarely hostile or malicious in intent; fundamentally, they are not malevolent. Having never learned to restrain their fantasies, and unconcerned with matters of social integrity, hedonistic narcissists maintain their beguiling ways through deception, fraud, lying, and by charming others through craft and wit. Instead of applying their talents toward the goals of tangible achievements and genuine relationships, they selfishly devote their energies to the construction of intricate lies, cleverly exploiting others and slyly extracting from them what they believe is their due.
In summary, Kim Jong-Il may be characterized as fraudulent, self-indulgent, and conflict averse — preferring guile, craft, and cunning rather than force or confrontation in extracting or extorting from others what he considers his due; he is not a “malignant narcissist.”
The major political implications of the study are the following: First, although North Korea’s military capability undeniably poses a legitimate threat to regional stability, any claim by Kim Jong-Il with regard to his military capabilities are not to be taken at face value, but should be called into question and verified; second, Kim is relatively conflict averse and unlikely to employ military force without provocation; and third, Kim is relatively open to influence by carefully crafted diplomatic and economic means subjectively perceived as bolstering his self-serving ambitions.
May 2009 update
My 2003 threat assessment should be read in the context of August 2008 reports that Kim Jong-Il had suffered a stroke.
Although I did not find Kim to be paranoid or delusional in my 2003 assessment, it is possible for stroke patients to undergo personality changes, including an increase in suspiciousness, or to develop psychiatric syndromes such as post-stroke depression or post-stroke dementia, which may impair the patient’s mental state and cognitive functioning.
Should that be the case with Kim Jong-Il, it may exacerbate a prior siege mentality, resulting in increasingly self-defeating, erratic behaviors patterns.
Despite remaining convinced that Kim is fundamentally risk-averse, I do have a heightened concern that a possible recent-onset organic brain syndrome could impair his insight, judgment, and decision-making capacity.
In the event Kim’s medical condition should color his pre-existing, premorbid personality with paranoid ideation or delusional thinking, he is likely to become increasingly mistrustful and vigilant; irritable and thin-skinned (hypersensitive to perceived slights and easily enraged by narcissistic injury); defiant, hostile, belligerent, and vengeful (determined to “balance the books” with respect to what he perceives as past wrongs); dichotomous ( “us versus them” social perception); insular (impervious to corrective action in response to sound advice and new information); self-righteous (arrogant and acting with a sense of entitlement); and self-justifying (viewing his own transgressions either as defensive necessity or as “payback” for the malevolence or wrongs of others).
Finally, no threat assessment would be complete without verifying who is currently “calling the shots” in North Korea, so to speak. Considering Kim’s recent medical history, it could be risky to respond to North Korean provocation under the assumption that Kim Jong-Il is fully in charge.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — October 11, 2009
Iraqi women protest in Baghdad on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009, one of several demonstrations to demand better public services and changes to the election system. (Photo credit: Khalid Mohammed / AP)
One year ago today, I reported that Iraqis took to the streets in parts of Iraq to demand open elections and improved public services, revealing a growing discontent among Iraqis.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — October 11, 2008
Two years ago today, on the 32nd day after losing my 2008 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, in line with my focus on national security, I reported that the Bush administration had removed North Korea from its “state sponsors of terrorism” blacklist. I also posted a daily summary of security incidents in Iraq.
A man runs after a car bomb blast in Abu Dshir in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 10, 2008. The blast killed 13 people and wounded at least 27. (Photo credit: Loay Hameed / AP)
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