North Korea is the most secretive state on the planet.
A report compiled by the United Nations in 2014 found that there are, “unspeakable atrocities… being committed against inmates in political prison camps that resemble to horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.”
The crimes against humanity being perpetrated by North Korea entail, “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution… the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons… and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the report said.
The United Nations estimated that between 80,000 and 120,000 people are currently imprisoned in political prison camps and, “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”
And that is just what we know.
But at a historical moment when North Korea’s leader – the second youngest head of state in the world – is testing powerful nuclear bombs, it’s time to ask; what do we actually know about Kim Jong-un? What are the myths that North Korea perpetuate about the third leader in the Kim dynasty? Who is the man behind one of the most bizarre personality cults in history?
The year of Kim’s birth is widely contested. He was thought to be born in 1982, but a number of reports suggest this was retrospectively changed for symbolic reasons. Recently Kim listed his official date of birth as January 8, 1984, making him 33 years old.
According to a number of witnesses, Kim attended school in Gümligen near Bern, in Switzerland. Although reports say he largely kept to himself, a former classmate told The Mirror, “He was funny… Always good for a laugh.”
For the first 20 years of Kim’s life, he was almost entirely absent from public or government service and was barely photographed. In 2010, Kim was made a daejang – which is equal to a four-star general in the United States, despite never having had any military experience. This was also the first time North Korea mentioned him by name.
Kim was the least qualified in the Kim dynasty to lead a country. His father, Kim Jong-Il, had held off providing him with any formal military or service training as he was concerned power would transfer from him to his imminent successor.
Thus, Kim inherited an active military personnel of over one million, along with almost six million paramilitary officers, with unlimited access to nuclear weapons, without having even one day of military experience.