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Nothing better defines Kim than how little we actually know about him.When asked, even the most respected outside experts on North Korea in the United States and in South Korea—not to mention inside the White House—invariably provide details that turn out to be traceable to Dennis Rodman or to a Japanese sushi chef named Kenji Fujimoto, who was employed by the ruling family from 1988 to 2001, and who now peddles trivial details about them (such as how Kim II once sent him to Beijing to pick up some food at Mc Donald’s).For most people, what follows is a long process of dethronement, as His Majesty the Child confronts the ever more obvious and humbling truth. His world at age 5 has turned out to be his world at age 30, or very nearly so. The known world really is configured with him at its center.The most senior men in his kingdom have power because he wills it, and they smile and bow and scribble notes en masse in little notepads whenever he deigns to speak.Does anyone make an easier target than Kim Jong Un?He’s Fatboy Kim the Third, the North Korean tyrant with a Fred Flintstone haircut—the grinning, chain-smoking owner of his own small nuclear arsenal, brutal warden to about 120,000 political prisoners, and effectively one of the last pure hereditary absolute monarchs on the planet.In the movie, Seth Rogen and James Franco play Americans who land an interview with Kim and then are enlisted by the C. His power in North Korea is so great that not only does no one dare criticize him, no one dares advise him.
For years, North Korea has engaged in what experts in Washington have called “a provocation cycle”—ramping up provocative behavior, such as launching missiles or conducting nuclear tests, followed by charm offensives and offers to begin a dialogue.
One way to read the confusing signals from Pyongyang in recent years is that they show Kim, isolated and inexperienced, clumsily pulling at the levers of state. I’m not sure whether Kim fully understands it.”We’re not even sure how old he is. To tidy up their historical narrative, Pyongyang’s propagandists have placed his birthday in 1982.
Kim is, in fact, playing a deadly game, says Andrei Lankov, a Russian expert on Korea who attended Kim Il Sung University, in Pyongyang, in 19, and now teaches at Kookmin University, in Seoul. The original Kim, the current leader’s grandfather and national founder, Kim Il Sung, for whom universal reverence is mandatory, was born in 1912.
In light of this, is it worth considering that the conventional take on Kim Jong Un does not come close to providing an accurate picture?
What if, despite the well-documented horrors of the Stalinist regime he inherited in 2011, while still in his 20s, Kim has ambitions at home that one might be tempted to describe—within carefully defined limits—as well intentioned?He is the Marshal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Great Successor, and the Sun of the 21st Century.