Kim Jong-un

Last updated

Kim Jong-un
김정은
Kim Jong-un April 2019 (cropped).jpg
Kim in 2019
General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea [lower-alpha 1]
Assumed office
11 April 2012

During 2020, Kim claimed success in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic in North Korea, after putting the country in isolation and limiting public gatherings. [168]

In April 2020, a three-week absence from public view led to speculation that Kim was seriously ill or dead, but no clear evidence of any health problem came to light. [169] [170] He continued to appear in public rarely over the following months, possibly because of health problems or the risk of COVID-19. [171] In August, it was reported that Kim had ceded a degree of authority to his sister, Kim Yo-jong, giving her responsibility for relations with South Korea and the United States and making her his de facto second-in-command. [172]

On 5 September 2020, Kim toured the areas hit by Typhoon Maysak. He also replaced the local provincial party committee chairman and ordered Pyongyang officials to lead a recovery effort. [173] His ruling party also pledged harsh punishment for the city and provincial officials, stating that they failed to protect the residents from the disaster. [174] Kim fired Kim Song-il, who was chairman of the South Hamgyong Province Workers Party of Korea Committee. [175]

At the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea, held in early January 2021, Kim delivered a nine-hour-long report in which he admitted failures in carrying out the economic plan and lambasted leading officials' shortcomings. [176] He also praised the country's nuclear capability and addressed the United States as the DPRK's main enemy. [177] The congress restored the operative functions of the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, a title previously awarded "eternally" to Kim Jong-il in 2012, [178] and elected Kim Jong-un to it. [179] In February 2021, state-run media began referring to Kim as "president" in English language articles. [180] In November 2021, the South Korean National Intelligence Service reported that the North Korean government has begun using the term "Kim Jong-un-ism", in an effort to establish an independent ideological system centered on Kim. Analyst Ken Gause described this as Kim "now ready to put his stamp firmly on the regime". [181]

In January 2022, a North Korean KCTV documentary, "2021, A Great Victorious Year", was released, which appeared to address Kim's sudden weight loss and infrequent public appearances. It said that Kim's body had "completely withered away" as he "suffered" for the people during 2021, completing tasks hitherto unpublicized while North Korea faced "challenges" and "worst-ever hardships". [182]

In May 2022, North Korea announced that its first COVID-19 outbreak had started in April. In a meeting with the WPK, Kim ordered "all the cities and counties of the whole country to thoroughly lock down," and called for the mobilization of emergency reserve medical supplies. [183] In the days that followed the country's announcement, hundreds of thousands of new cases of fevers were reported, as well as 27 related deaths related to fever of unidentified origins, among which one death was confirmed as from the Omicron variant according to state media outlet KCNA. [184] Kim spoke further at a subsequent meeting with the WPK, stating that the virus had brought “great turmoil” to his country, and urged the party and people to remain unified and organized in their efforts to combat the virus. [184] Kim went on to blame the crisis on incompetence and irresponsibility on the part of the party organizations, and also cast blame on “negligence including drug overdose due to lack of knowledge of treatment methods” as the reason for most of the deaths since the outbreak. [184] As part of the country’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Kim stated that he looked to learn from the response mounted by China. [185] By the end of May, North Korean state media reported the COVID-19 outbreak was “controlled and improved across the country” following a re-evaluation by Kim and the WPK. [186]

Personal life

Personality

Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese chef who was Kim Jong-il's personal cook, described Kim Jong-un as "a chip off the old block, a spitting image of his father in terms of face, body shape, and personality". [187] Kim is a fan of basketball, and his favorite teams include the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. [26] [188]

On 26 February 2013, Kim Jong‑un met Dennis Rodman, [189] which led many reporters to speculate that Rodman was the first American that Kim had met. [190] During Rodman's trip, Vice magazine correspondent Ryan Duffy said that Kim was "socially awkward" and avoided eye contact. [191]

According to Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute, Kim Jong-un has greater visible interest in the welfare of his people and engages in greater interaction with them than his father did. [192]

South Koreans who saw Kim at the summit in April 2018 described him as straightforward, humorous, and attentive. [193] After meeting him, Donald Trump said, "I learned he was a talented man. I also learned he loves his country very much." He added that Kim had a "great personality" and was "very smart". [194]

Public image

Forbes magazine ranked Kim as the 36th most powerful person in the world in 2018, the highest amongst Koreans. [195]

In a 2013 poll, 61.7% of North Korean defectors in South Korea said that Kim Jong Un was probably supported by most of his countrymen, an increase from the 55.7% approval rating for his father in a similar survey done two years earlier. [196]

In a poll of South Koreans conducted following the May 2018 inter-Korean summit, 78% of respondents said they trusted Kim, compared with 10% approval a couple months prior. [197]

The nickname "Kim Fatty the Third" (Chinese:金三胖; pinyin:Jīn Sān Pàng) began trending among Chinese users of the websites Baidu and Sina Weibo in late 2016. In response, the North Korean government successfully petitioned the Chinese government to censor the nickname on all Chinese websites. [198]

Wealth

International Business Times reported Kim to have 17 luxury palaces around North Korea, a fleet of 100 (mostly European) luxury cars, a private jet, and a 100-foot (30 m) yacht. [199] Rodman described his trip to a private island owned by Kim Jong-un: "It's like Hawaii, Ibiza, or Aruba but he's the only one that lives there." [200]

In 2012, Business Insider reported that there were "[s]igns of a rise in luxury goods ... creeping out of North Korea since Kim Jong-un took over" and that his "wife Ri Sol-ju (리설주) was photographed holding what appeared to be an expensive Dior handbag, worth almost $1,594 an average year's salary in North Korea". [201] According to diplomatic sources, "Kim Jong-un likes to drink and party all night like his father and ordered the [imported sauna] equipment to help him beat hangovers and fatigue." [202]

In 2018, Kim received delivery of two armored Mercedes-Maybach S600s, each valued at $500,000, through an illicit shipping network in violation of international sanctions. [203]

Health

In 2009, reports suggested that Kim Jong-un was a diabetic and suffered from hypertension. [46] [204] He is also known to smoke cigarettes. [205]

Kim Jong-un did not appear in public for six weeks in September and October 2014. State media reported that he was suffering from an "uncomfortable physical condition". Previously he had been limping. [206] When he reappeared, he was using a walking stick. [207]

In September 2015, the South Korean government commented that Kim appeared to have gained 30 kg (66 lb) in body fat over the previous five years, reaching a total estimated body weight of 130 kg (290 lb). [208]

In April 2020, Kim was not seen in public for 20 days, leading to rumours that he was critically ill or dead. [209] [210] [211]

In June 2021, following a one-month-long absence from the public eye, outside observers noted that Kim had lost considerable amount of weight. [212] It is speculated that he had lost 10 to 20 kg (22 to 44 lb). [213]

Family

Kim (holding envelope) with Chung Eui-yong. Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong (on the right) is said to be very close to him Chung Eui-yong and Kim Jong-un.jpg
Kim (holding envelope) with Chung Eui-yong. Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong (on the right) is said to be very close to him

On 25 July 2012, North Korean state media reported for the first time that Kim Jong-un was married to Ri Sol-ju. [214] [215] Ri, who was believed to be in her early 20s, had been accompanying Kim Jong-un to public appearances for several weeks prior to the announcement. [215] According to a South Korean analyst, Kim Jong-il had hastily arranged the marriage after suffering a stroke in 2008, the two married in 2009, and they had a child in 2010. [216] Dennis Rodman, after visiting in 2013, reported that they had a second newborn child, a daughter named Ju-ae. [217] [218] According to South Korean intelligence sources, the couple is believed to have had a third child of unknown sex in February 2017. [219] [220]

Kim is sometimes accompanied by his younger sister Kim Yo-jong, [9] who is said to be instrumental in creating his public image and organising public events for him. [221] According to Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, and others, the promotion of Yo-jong and others is a sign that "the Kim Jong-un regime has ended its co-existence with the remnants of the previous Kim Jong-il regime by carrying out a generational replacement in the party's key elite posts". [222]

On 13 February 2017, Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half-brother of Kim Jong-un, was assassinated with the nerve agent VX while walking through Terminal 2 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. [223] Kim Jong-un is widely believed to have ordered the assassination. [224] [225]

Awards and honors

See also

Notes

  1. Kim Jong-un held the same position under the title of "First Secretary" from 11 April 2012 until 9 May 2016 and "Chairman" from 9 May 2016 until 10 January 2021.
  2. In this Korean name, the family name is Kim .
  3. Officially transcribed as Kim Jong Un by North Korean sources.
  4. In Korean, the given name Jong-un or Jong Un is pronounced [tsɔŋ.ɯn] in isolation.
  5. Kim Jong-un has served as leader of the Workers' Party of Korea as First Secretary between 2012 and 2016, Chairman between 2016 and 2021, and General Secretary since 2021.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kim Yo-jong</span> Sister of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Day of the Shining Star</span> Annual observance in North Korea celebrating the birth of Kim Jong-il

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kim Jong-un bibliography</span>

Kim Jong-un has been the supreme leader of North Korea since the death of Kim Jong-il, the previous leader and his father.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military parades in North Korea</span>

This is a list of military parades held in Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) since 1948. All military parades consist of troops from the Korean People's Army and the paramilitary Worker-Peasant Red Guards. All military parades of a national nature are held on Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung Square with the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, President of the State Affairs Commission and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of North Korea in attendance. These parades are broadcast live on Korean Central Television.

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Further reading

Party political offices
Preceded by General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea
First Secretary: 2012–2016
Chairman: 2016–2021

2012–present
Incumbent
Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Acting: 2011–2012

2012–present
New office Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
2010–2012
Served alongside: Ri Yong-ho
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President of the State Affairs Commission
National Defence Commission: 2012–2016

2012–present
Incumbent
Military offices
Preceded by Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of North Korea
Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army: 2011–2019

2011–present
Incumbent