So he’s a high school dropout, he has a small nuclear arsenal, and he’s into torturing small animals and bondage porn. Anything else?

Soon enough, we’ll see different narratives about Kim Jong Eun emerge.  North Koreans are already hearing about Kim Jong-Eun’s badass marksmanship, and I suppose we’ll see him credited with superhuman intellence next.  Foreigners will want to believe he’s the next Gorbachev, and trust me, Peter Pan had nothing on our State Department.  I’d love to believe that myself.  And I suspect a certain former Washington Post reporter and frequent Pyongyang visitor is presently writing an op-ed telling us all that that’s so. Unfortunately, the little unverified information we have isn’t grounds for optimism:

North Korea’s new leader is depicted in U.S. intelligence assessments as a volatile youth with a sadistic streak who may be even more unpredictable than his late father, according to U.S. officials.  U.S. intelligence officials say they have limited information about Kim Jong Eun, the youngest son of Kim Jong Il and his anointed successor. The U.S. has had few direct contacts on which to make a “conclusive assessment” of Kim Jong Eun’s nature and character, a senior U.S. official said.  [….]

The portrait of Kim Jong Eun that emerges in his U.S. profile is that of a young man who, despite years of education in the West, is steeped in his father’s cult of personality and may be even more mercurial and merciless, officials said.

A senior U.S. official said intelligence analysts believe, for instance, that Kim Jung Eun “tortured small animals” when he was a youth. “He has a violent streak and that’s worrisome,” a senior U.S. official said, summing up the U.S. assessments.  [Wall Street Journal]

In that case, let’s try to take comfort in the fact that he’s probably much too smart to do anything rash or dangerous:

He is the heir poised to become the next leader of rogue state North Korea.  But a probe into the school days of Kim Jong Un – youngest son of dictator Kim Jong Il – proves he is little more than an academic failure who squandered his education playing computer games and basketball.  [….]

‘Un tried hard to express himself but he was not very good at German and became flustered when asked to give the answers to a problem. The teachers would see him struggling ashamedly and then move on. They left him in peace.  ‘He left without getting any exam results at all. He was much more interested in football and basketball than lessons.’  A big fan of star Michael Jordan, Kim Jong Un   – who was once caught with a bondage pornographic magazine in his school bag – proved to be a good player on the basketball court.  [Daily Mail]

Well, in that case, take comfort in the fact that what Kim Jong-Eun is probably irrelevant to policy-making in Pyongyang now.  And at least he’s reviving forgotten words like “regent,” “dauphin,” and “primogeniture,” and underused words like “porcine.”

While you’re at the WSJ, don’t miss two very good op-eds — one by old friend Sung Yoon Lee and new friend Sue Terry, and one by Melanie Kirkpatrick, who at last word was hard at work on a book on North Korean refugees.

6 comments

  1. awefwae says:

    But how is he at giving on-the-spot guidance?

  2. Ernst says:

    Of course the big question will be whether Alejandro will increase the amount of bi-bim-babs he’ll be consuming, so he can start looking like the triple chinned Kim Jong Un.

  3. I prefer the Kirkpatrick piece to the Lee editorial. Kirkpatrick actually has new facts to tell. And, that Havel quote is priceless – too bad the Lee administration in Seoul has no intention to be firm or consistent.

    But, to grow that popular discontent Kirkpatrick alleges exists, we have to give them something more than rhetoric and bombs. Expanding markets looks the optimal way, so that the number of party members frustrated with their lowly status in the party and inability to get rich quicker becomes a raging storm. Do you think letting Korean and other foreign corporations in there without any interference or safeguards from their governments is a good idea?

  4. Joshua says:

    So would you propose to enforce that with gunboats?

    Personally, I’m migrating to the conclusion that there really is a magic bullet for North Korea, particularly now that the Kim Jong Il spell is broken. I think that if North Koreans had unrestricted internet, VOIP, and devices like iPhones, the whole place would be roiling like Syria within two years, refugees and armed deserters would be swarming across the Tumen, and the Chinese would suddenly get very serious about a change of government in Pyongyang, as long as the outcome was a stable Korea without U.S. forces too close to their borders. Assuming — and it’s a big assumption — that the ROK government cooperates, no gunboats or U.S. military intervention of any kind would be required, except maybe some enhanced deterrence.

  5. Spelunker says:

    The CIA actually includes a question about torturing small animals on its initial recruitment questionnaire.

    I am in the collapse camp, but it will have to begin with N.K. troop defections. If so, then the South should strike immediately to push forward momentum for a reunification solution while ignoring China’s lame calls for “lengjing, lengjing” (冷静) every time a disruption of the status quo occurs.

  6. Reading the title, I was actually hoping this article was about Jon Huntsman. But alas. The man truly can get no press.

    For the record, everyone apart from B.R. Myers — for whom everything seems really facile; he is probably also an expert rock climber — has a really difficult time learning German. There is nothing shameful about saying Kim Jong Eun had difficulty with the language. Initial reports (the ones from 2009 that were basically ignored then and being treated as amazing now, the whole “new revelation” phenomonon [sic] of North Korea generally) in the Swiss, French and German press from 2009 were actually rather favorable in the recollections of Kim’s Bern colleagues about his language capacity. (No point in dropping in a bunch of gratuitous links here, but there are some websites which translated a couple of these pieces from French-Swiss magazines, and some German newspapers, into English; there was one on CanKor, a site, by the way, which is still going strong and upbraiding Stephan Harper for his post-Kim death comments.)

    Spelunker, any chance you could contact me about a project? I don’t know if you’re still in the great red pulsating motherland of the PRC, but I am.

    Thanks to Joshua for providing the forum and the agenda; between the revival of the NBA season and this website I think we all have some reasons to celebrate.

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