Kim Jong-un, ten years of plots and sales at the helm of North Korea –

from Guido Santevecchi

In December 2011, he inherited power in Pyongyang. He has since made the seven guardians at his side disappear during his father’s funeral. Starting with his uncle, shot

Majestic comrade Kim Jong-un descended from heaven, conceived from the sacred Mount Paektu. He presented it thus on December 20, 2011 the Rodong Sinmun, megaphone of the Pyongyang regime. These were days of shocking announcements for the North Korean people and the world intelligence community. On December 19, a sobbing presenter of state TV had given the news that Dear Leader Kim Jong-il had passed away two days earlier, on December 17, of a heart attack while traveling on his armored train. It was communicated that his son Kim Jong-un had assumed full powers as Grand Successor.

Dead Kim II had ascended to the throne of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (official name of North Korea) Kim III, twenty-seven years old unknown to the general public. The secret services, from Seoul to Washington, to Tokyo were surprised, despite the fact that Kim Jong-il had lost weight in an impressive way for years and no longer move his left hand, a sign of a number of serious diseases. It was also a setback to have had to learn the turning point from North Korean TV, fifty-one hours late. Yet hundreds of Western analysts spend their days studying every little detail that filters through Pyongyang, precisely to raise the alarm in the event of instability, of an earthquake at the top of a dangerous country armed with nuclear devices.

That was not the only intelligence mistake. On December 28, ten years ago, under a snow storm, a very long funeral procession passed through the streets of Pyongyang. The coffin of the Dear Leader, lying on a bed of white flowers, was carried by a black limousine, an American-made Lincoln Continental (arrived smuggled), amidst the wings of a tearful crowd, the silence broken only by the screams of pain of hundreds of thousands of people. In North Korea, these ceremonies are used to try to decipher the balance of power, based on the line-up of the characters, the list of invited dignitaries. The Lincoln transformed into a hearse was flanked by eight men on foot. Kim Jong-un and seven hierarchs, arranged in two rows. Looking at those images with a magnifying glass, the analysts ruled that the seven del de profundis in Kim Jong-il would constitute the Council for the Protection of the inexperienced and unprepared Kim III. Kim Jong-un held on to the rearview mirror of the car, perhaps to symbolically be in almost physical contact with the dead Dear Leader, perhaps to avoid slipping into the snow.

Behind him Jang Song-thaek, husband of Kim’s aunt and two other political dignitaries, left of the Lincoln four generals. Uncle Jang had been the head of the economic program for years, a point of reference for relations with the powerful China, which pushed for market reforms. Eminence Gray Jang was said to have made a commitment to ensure a peaceful succession to his nephew, but it was later learned that he had actually plotted, perhaps with his Chinese friends, to take control and use Kim as a puppet, a figurehead to be exhibited to the adoring North Korean masses who grew up in the myth of the Dynasty. On the other side of the car, four soldiers: their procession was led by Deputy Marshal Ri Yong-ho, head of the People’s Army, who had promptly sworn allegiance to the new leader: Every element of the army will be a rifle and human bomb to defend him, he wrote as usual Rodong Sinmun. Six months after Ri, he was taken over by command for health reasons and has not been seen since.

Spectacular and shocking the departure of the other alleged guardian: Uncle Jang was arrested in late 2013 during a Politburo session. The regime’s propaganda then showed the moment in which two soldiers lifted him in weight and dragged him away, towards the summary trial and then the firing squad. He perpetrated cursed acts of treachery, he was worse than a dog, he commented Rodong Sinmun. Traces of the other five in the funeral procession have also been lost: Kim Ki-nam, head of propaganda, replaced by Kim Yo-jong, Kim’s younger sister; Kim Yong-chun, deputy marshal and minister, vanished into thin air; replaced Kim Jong-gak, general; outcast and perhaps purged U Dong-chuk, chief of the secret police; Choe Tae-bok, former external affairs manager, retired.

Of that handful in mourning, renamed the procession of the disappeared, left only Kim Jong-un, who is now ten years old as a Respected Marshal and has taken away the satisfaction of meeting the President of the United States Donald Trump three times. He mocked predictions of doom again in 2020, when he didn’t show up for more than a month and was left for dead. For the record, in the last 52 days he has only appeared once, but now the South Korean secret services are convinced that he is very healthy and that the weight loss of about 20 kilos has benefited him. Wrong prediction even the initial one that he wanted reformist Kim, on the basis of his openness to the outside world: he had studied (under a false name) in a Swiss college, it is said that he traveled around Europe in disguise, perhaps even in Milan where someone swears to have seen him at San Siro for an Inter match.

Certainly a basketball fanatic, so much so that he has received the former American champion of the Chicago Bulls Dennis Rodman several times in North Korea, known as the worm. The dictator has not loosened his grip, he has not opened the economy, he has not stopped refining the arsenal of missiles and nuclear devices, he has only played to buy time with diplomatic initiatives. From 2020, only official press releases have arrived from Pyongyang, distilled from propaganda. Almost all the foreign diplomats have left, exhausted by the restrictions on movement aggravated by the fear of Covid (which officially and miraculously would not have arrived in North Korea). The latest satellite images show notable movements in the capital. No celebrations and public holidays have been announced for Kim’s 10th anniversary. But the Plenum of the Workers’ Party was scheduled for the end of December. Will any surprise announcements come out? Joe Biden returned to the old strategic patience, in fact, the United States has decided to ignore Kim and his sporadic missile tests (nine in 2021). South Korean President Moon Jae-in dreams instead of signing a symbolic Declaration of Peace with Kim to put an end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, still frozen in the Panmunjom armistice. Moon is in a hurry now, as he will be leaving the Seoul Blue House in March and his successor may be much less willing to argue with the North Koreans. The United States is silent, it suspects that a peace treaty between the Two Koreas would give Kim the opportunity to call for the withdrawal of the American forces protecting the South. The Majestic Marshal still has many options to surprise analysts.

December 3, 2021 (change December 3, 2021 | 22:55)

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