Category Archives: Kim Jong Un

So I guess naming your dog “Kim Jong Un” is a definite no-no.

North Korea has ordered its people not to use the name “Kim Jong-un” in a bid to protect the supreme authority of the current leader, according to Pyongyang’s official document confirmed Wednesday.

In January 2011, then leader Kim Jong-il issued a decree urging people with the same name to change it “voluntarily.” As North Korea is regarded as a totalitarian state, it is unclear whether the decree was actually voluntary. [Yonhap]

Oh, it seems clear enough to me. When I first read the headline, I thought it meant that they’d banned people from saying Kim Jong Un’s name at all, which is disappointing, because now I can’t use this.

Presumably, it’s still legal to name your kid “Adolf” or “Pol Pot” there.

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NIS: Kim Jong Un recovering from ankle surgery

I don’t know if this is true, but it makes more sense than any other theory I’ve heard in the last month:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is recovering following an operation to remove a cyst from his right ankle, though there is a chance that the condition could recur, lawmakers said Tuesday, citing South Korea’s spy agency.

Kim received the operation between September and October by inviting a foreign doctor into the communist country, according to Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri Party and Shin Kyong-min of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

The two lawmakers made the comments to reporters after a closed-door parliamentary audit of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in southern Seoul.

The NIS said that there is a chance that the condition could recur due to Kim’s obesity and frequent inspection tours, according to the lawmakers. [Yonhap]

So much for “closed-door.” Anyway, it tells you all you need to know about the greatness of North Korea’s vaunted “free” and “universal” medical care that when the patient really matters, they fly in a foreign doctor. The involvement of a foreign doctor also suggests the possibility of independent verification.

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The emperor is the elephant in the room

“Our Marshal must be at least 100 kilograms,” people have said about Kim Jong Eun’s physique, according to the source. “It’s very rare to see anyone who has body type like the leader in this country [North Korea],” the source said. This has caused people to say in public that “our leader has a fine presence,” but in private they say, “what is it that he eats alone to make his body like that.” [Daily NK]

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Podcast interview with me on Kim Jong Un

I hope Brad Jackson wasn’t too disappointed, not only by all the ways I found to say, “I don’t know,” but also by my questioning of much of the nonsense stories that so many “news” and listicle sites have propagated about North Korea lately. If you “know” less by the end of the interview than at the beginning, I’ll feel that I’ve done some good.

The proliferation of so much superficial nonsense must be more than a function of its inexhaustible supply. I suppose it’s also a function of our psychological need for a shield of amusement and condescension to protect us from the dreadful truth. I wonder if the inflexibly wishful thinking of so many scholars is a different expression of the same need.

The latest example of this is The Daily Mail’s exclusive report that Kim Jong Un actually disappeared for 40 days because he was being fitted with a gastric band. It’s almost certainly fiction, but fiction for mere profit still occupies a higher ethical plane than fiction for propaganda.

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Kim Jong Un: Morbidly obese and infirm at 30, or merely puttin’ on the Ritz?

I realize John DeLury has a history of unrealistically sanguine interpretations of Kim Jong Un, but this is a bit surreal:

And while the cane appears to be a frank acknowledgement of Mr. Kim’s vulnerability, it’s also a savvy way of turning any physical weaknesses into a source of strength, says John Delury, an expert on Korean issues at Yonsei University in Seoul.

The choice of a cane has connotations of age and wisdom — in contrast to, say, a wheelchair or crutches, notes Mr. Delury. [Jonathan Cheng, Korea Real Time]

Not to mention, a mobility scooter.

When Mr. Kim first appeared at the helm nearly three years ago, in his late 20s, the North tried to use his youth as a sign of vigor and strength.“

That effort was not a complete success, however.

Now, they have a practical problem that a 30-year-old shouldn’t be limping, and they’re going to have to spin it,” Mr. Delury said. “So they’re spinning it to show how he’s suffering for the nation, and also maturing in a way — a cane is a prop of a gentleman.”

You how wcapitalist-fat-cathat else it’s a prop of? The engagement is finally working, people!

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It’s too bad Kevorkian is no longer available.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has made his first public appearance in five weeks, has been treated by “foreign doctors” because of an apparent leg injury, the South Korean ambassador to China said Tuesday. [Yonhap]

Sure, you say, someone else would just replace him, but I agree with Scott Snyder on this — without an obvious successor, his incapacitation would trigger a fight for succession. More than that, it would represent the death of the last viable symbol of the deiocracy.

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Life imitates The Onion: KCNA says Kim Jong Un appears in public

So says … KCNA, which also reported the discovery of a unicorn lair in 2012, and a series of supernatural events after Kim Jong Il’s death in 2011.

Personally, I’m still skeptical. If Kim Jong Un is really as healthy as they want us to believe he is, why don’t they just do what Kim Jong Il did and release some oil paintings to prove it?

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Update: Well, damn. Now I want to see him holding up the newspaper. Preferably, with both hands.

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Update: At the WaPo, Anna Fifield summarizes:

The reports should put an end to rumors that Kim has been overthrown or is under house arrest, but will do little end speculation about this health.

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Kim Jong Un is a no-show again (updated 11 Oct 2014)

TOKYO – The mystery surrounding the whereabouts and status of Kim Jong Un deepened on Friday, when the North Korean leader missed a celebration for the 69th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers’ Party.

It is now more than five weeks since Kim was seen in public, and his absence, coupled with surprisingly frank official reports that he is suffering from “discomfort” have sparked rumors of every malady from obesity to overthrow.

As with most things concerning North Korea, the truth remains far from clear. But the state-run Korean Central News Agency notably left Kim’s name off a list of dignitaries who paid their respects early Friday morning to his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, at the mausoleum where both lie. [Washington Post, Anna Fifield]

Reading KCNA’s coverage of the event, I couldn’t help thinking of Brian Myers’s book:

Therefore, the people in the DPRK have confirmed once again the truth that the WPK led by Kim Jong Un is the genuine motherly party, to which they could entrust their life and destiny. [“WPK, Motherly Party,” KCNA, Oct. 9. 2014]

Well, he probably has the man-bosoms for the job.

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Kim Jong Un misses another big meeting

North Korea held a national meeting Tuesday to mark the 17th anniversary of late leader Kim Jong-il’s election as general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

The communist nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, however, was absent from the annual event to commemorate his father. [Yonhap]

I don’t know if Kim Jong Un is sick or well, and North Korean emperors have a tendency to go missing for extended periods, but it’s starting to look like September wasn’t his best month.

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Update: A lot of people will be watching whether His Porcine Majesty shows up on Friday, at a ceremony to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. But as commenter Greg Jones pointed out, you’d have half expected him to make some kind of appearance to welcome the North Korean athletes home from Incheon.

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Update 2: A useful caution from Chris Green, to tamp down your irrational exuberance.

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New Focus: No one in or out of Pyongyang (updated)

The report is now a few days old, and I’m curious to know whether this can be confirmed by anyone else, and whether this has changed since it was published.

North Korea restricted entry and exit permissions to Pyongyang three days ago, a New Focus correspondent reports. The source could not confirm whether this move was related to Kim Jong-un’s disappearance from the public eye for the past 26 days.

On the ground, the measure is informally being suggested to be a part of the Party’s preparations for the upcoming October 10 celebrations regrding the founding of the Korean Worker’s Party.

But the difference of this occasion from past restrictions is that even Pyongyang residents, who had been out of the capital for business in Sinuiju or Najin-Sonbong, are not being issued with permissions to re-enter the capital. [New Focus]

There certainly have been a lot of strange happenings in Pyongyang over the last two weeks. I’m not ready to believe rumors that Kim Jong Un has been quietly overthrown — less so that his little sister is the new de facto dictator — but the actual truth of the matter may well be more interesting than any of the rumors (except, perhaps, for the Apocryphal Emmental Hypothesis).

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Global Times denounces N. Korea coup rumors; State Dep’t says “no confirmation”

China’s Global Times, which must be on edge over the burgeoning protest movement on Hong Kong’s streets, angrily denounces internet rumors of a coup in North Korea.

The rumors that Jo Myong-rok, a late North Korean vice marshal who died four years ago, arrested Kim in a coup and sent his lieutenants to South Korea for negotiations, were quickly denied by South Korean diplomats in Beijing.

In the commentary titled “For those who make up rumors of coup in North Korea, is it so funny?” the Global Times accused the rumormongers of spreading groundless stories.

“Netizens who have a radical opinion can’t represent the opinion of China and China’s attitude toward North Korea was not changed,” the commentary said. [Yonhap]

Even the State Department is being asked about coup rumors now, and responds that it has “no confirmation” of them. Which is an interesting way of putting it.

An alternative theory comes via a rather poorly sourced report in the Chosun Ilbo, that Kim Jong Un broke his ankles while walking on his “Cuban heels,” whatever those are. This theory has the disadvantage of being just as apocryphal as the Emmental Hypothesis, but less delectably ironic.

 

Although the likelihood of a successful zombie-led coup seems remote, it still strikes me as extraordinary that a meeting of the Supreme Peoples’ Assembly would proceed without Kim, especially if its agenda included the removal of Choe Ryong-Hae.

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Blessed are the cheesemakers: His Porcine Majesty Kim Jong Un has eaten himself sick, possibly on Swiss cheese.

Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, is “not feeling well,” a state-run television station reported this week, in a rare revelation about his health.

In a documentary broadcast on Thursday, the North’s Central TV showed Mr. Kim, who has not been seen in public in recent weeks, walking with a limp while visiting a factory in Nampo, a provincial town southwest of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last month. A narrator intoned about the tireless work of Mr. Kim, “our marshal, who lights the path of leadership for the people like a flame, although he was not feeling well.” [N.Y. Times]

When North Korean state TV says the leader of the country isn’t feeling well, it means he really isn’t feeling well. Wait till you hear why:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is believed to be suffering from gout due to his poor management of his health as well as family traits, a source familiar with North Korea affairs said Friday. [….]

“Kim Jong-un is suffering from gout, which is why he is limping on both legs,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I understand that he is suffering from gout along with hyperuricemia, hyperlipidemia, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Kim’s health is believed to have deteriorated due to his habit of frequent drinking and overeating. [Yonhap]

Several days ago, some news sources had reported that His Porcine Majesty’s affinity for Emmental cheese from Switzerland was the cause of his personal Untergang, and sure enough, Leo Byrne has unearthed trade statistics that might corroborate that rumor.*

So let me see if I understand this — 84% of North Koreans are on the brink of starvation, and their dictator may be too obese to walk.

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Another purge? Choe Ryong-Hae transferred to a new post (and perhaps soon to be tied to one).

Here’s the relevant text from KCNA’s unlinkable article, “2nd Session of 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK Held,” dated September 25, 2014. It’s rather terse:

It recalled Deputy Choe Ryong Hae from the post of vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post and Deputy Jang Jong Nam from the post of member of the NDC of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post.

It elected Deputy Hwang Pyong So to fill the vacancy as vice-chairman of the NDC of the DPRK and Deputies Hyon Yong Chol and Ri Pyong Chol to fill the vacancy as members of the NDC of the DPRK at the proposal of Marshal Kim Jong Un. [KCNA]

Since Jang’s purge and execution last year, Choe (bio here) had been seen as the second-most powerful man in North Korea. Choe’s removal lacks the zip and pizzazz of Jang’s long and vitriolic denunciation. I suppose that will be worth watching for in the coming days.

Hat tip to Yonhap, but the source I’m really going to have to start reading more regularly is New Focus International, which kinda called this one, at least in the sense that a power struggle was coming and Hwang Pyong-So would be a part of it.

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Maybe I’m not as sophisticated and nuanced as Washington Post blogger …

Adam Taylor (or whomever wrote the headline for his post), but unlike Taylor, I can’t quite see Kim Jong Un’s “vulnerable side” through his mass murder and starvation of so many of his pitiful subjects.

Granted, there is some significance in the fact that His Porcine Majesty has sometimes fallen below the aura of infallibility that this regime has built around him, but would anyone see a dominant theme in Hitler’s vegetarianism revealing a compassionate side, or Saddam Hussein’s authorship of romance novels revealing the romantic within?

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Kim Jong Un’s limp

OK, I’m convinced. The rheumy-eyed, snaggletoothed old Trotskyites at The Guardian didn’t enable the embed feature — hypocrites! — but you can watch Reuters’s video here. No official word yet on whether Kim acquired the limp by stumbling over a starving orphan on the doorstep of one of his palaces. Hat tip to a valued reader.

You could also characterize this slight limp as a waddle, the kind that would be cute if a penguin walked with it; less so when a mass-murdering psychopath of a man-child with nuclear weapons does it.

As I said yesterday: suspensors.

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The Parallelograms of Pyongyang, Sewol, and Accountability

When that apartment building crumbled into the earth in Pyongyang last week—thus becoming the probable tomb of several hundred wives, children, and parents of the elite salarymen who lived in them—I linked to a series of remarkable reports from a guerrilla journalist for Rimjingang, who was willing to risk torture and execution to practice journalism about his homeland. The reports, accompanied by photographs and video, described the shoddy construction methods being used there, and foretold the tragedy to come.

Now, thanks to the Daily NK, we also have our first accounts of the disaster itself. They tell us that the regime was not only unprepared for this disaster, but failed to mobilize an effective rescue after it happened, probably contributing to an even greater loss of life.

The source told Daily NK on the 23rd, “During the day on May 13th, there was a huge bang and then the new apartment block in Pyeongcheon started to collapse. People on the first and second floors were able to get out in time and were rescued, but the remaining 80+ households almost all died.”

“Some people who had managed to escape then used cell phones to let the Ministry of People’s Security and local administrative office know what had happened, but barely a handful of cadres came when they heard the news,” the source said, alleging, “There was no proper rescue mission to speak of; they managed to pull out a few who had been pinned under the debris, that was all.”

Moreover, “They didn’t use any equipment in the rescue work, just mobilized people.

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With or without flamethrowers, purges continue in North Korea (Updated)

What are the odds that Jang Song Thaek was eaten by a pack of dogs, or that Ri Sol Ju made a sex tape with Jang? Probably not greater than 10%, and I’d put the odds that the South Korean NIS planted both stories at roughly twice that. Lurid stories like these have never held much appeal to me, because I’ve never believed that anyone in a position to know them first-hand would ever tell them to a South Korean reporter, and in any event, I can’t add anything useful to the speculation about their veracity. Their epidemiology interests me much more. It’s inevitable that stories like these would emerge, spread, and mutate in a society that’s a vacuum of reliable information, but stifling and irriguous with terror. That, by itself, is notable. (So is the fact that they also spread to our own society nowadays, but that’s a subject I’ll leave to others.)

The most recent of these stories holds that one O Sang-Hon, the Deputy Minister of Public Security, was executed by flamethrower. The story, in the Telegraph, is attributed to “South Korean media.” Further investigation traces it to this report, from the Chosun Ilbo, which claims that O was given this gruesome end because “he had turned the ministry into Jang’s personal protection squad.” On the bright side, at least O’s job description gives us little cause to mourn for him.

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