Kim Jong Un, March 2003: A Recollection

I don’t remember much of my time in North Korea since I was traveling a lot at that time and so my recollections are sparse at best. Needless to say the elder Kim (Kim Jong IL) has passed and his son (Kim Jong Un) has taken the reins of power. I was last in Korea in the summer of 2003. I went on what I billed as a fact finding mission to hopefully glean some sort of revelation about the young leader as well as his father’s commitment to his nuclear weapons program. I found them to be a rather normal sort for what North Korea is. Kim Jong Un was concerted in his own very tiny world that was fun but I could see that its novelty had worn off on him. He was pampered by his dad in a way that made it impossible to ever truly leave his shadow; even in death which is what I believe you are dealing with right now. It’s not that he has the army to look out for; the people that his dad surrounded himself with never envied the position that he was in, it’s that he has the army’s shadow to get from out under. He has a fairly pacifist demeanor; when he tells Dennis Rodman that he “doesn’t want to do war”, it should be believed. He’s not sadistic; I’ve seen that before and he’s not it, though he would just as quickly rationalize his dad’s gulags as a way of keeping peace, or of preventing terrorism. I got the feeling from him when it came to world affairs that he had very little grasp of the consequences of his dad’s actions and by proxy his own actions. In fact he seemed to be rather dim when it came to the subject on its visceral level. I believe that the misunderstandings you are currently having with him stem from this dint. It’s not that he’s stupid it’s that he’s uninterested in the subject as a whole viewing it as an aberration that can be resolved… eventually. How though he hasn’t the faintest. Again such a cavalier attitude would be viewed by the outside world as dangerous in a “bloodthirsty country” like North Korea however again I must direct your attention to the fact that nobody in North Korea is envious of Kim Jong Un’s position in the country, since the burden of accountability is high for someone in his position. The visits by the premier to various state sponsored projects within the country I believe are meant to alleviate some of this tension so that Kim Jong Un can focus on the things that really matter… like a Harlem globetrotters game. Kim Jong Un genuinely loves basketball and I’ve played a game against him, this much is true. Again it’s not that he doesn’t know how to practice statecraft. It’s just that its practice is viewed as such a non-priority that he abstains in the hopes that it will eventually go away. I know that sounds odd but I can’t stress enough the idea in North Korea of its problems of the world from the young leaders perspective, and the North Korean people in general of just going away one day. North Korea can be compared to a 19th century communalist, Fourier. By communal living we can make the problems of the outside world simply go away. This type of thinking is what began and eventually ended the cold war. That’s not to say that North Korea is on the decline on the contrary his acumen is high enough that he knows how to balance a budget and that is basically all that’s required of him. Saber rattling is mostly passé in the north but miscommunication is quickly on the ascent. In this case I consider the latter to be just as dangerous as the former. If I could read his mind I would probably expect him to be working on attacking South Korea and the U.S. at the same time. Perhaps from this “brush back pitch” they’ll think twice before going to the U.N. to complain about us, he no doubt assumes. Update: I said earlier in this work that nobody envies Kim Jong Un’s position as leader. This was only partially true as it seems that Jang Song Taek; his uncle, and others attempted a coup de tat but was unsuccessful. This certainly falls in line with the family dynamics and it was my fault for not revealing it when this article was written last year (2013).

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