Early in the morning of September 15, a sleek weapon of death cut through the skies of North Korea, crossed over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and fell into the ocean 2,000 km east of Cape Erimo. It was a ballistic missile—the 119th one the country has launched since 1984—which triggered the J-Alert Japanese civil defence system to send out automatic alerts on television and mobile phones, warning its citizens: “Missile alert, missile alert... please take shelter underground or in a sturdy building.” It raised the nightmare of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which ended the last World War. The man behind the missile who could launch a third World War is North Korean dynastic despot Kim Jong-un, whose nuclear capers have been seriously alarming the US, and its close allies Japan and South Korea.
The North Korean government threatened the “four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche”. Juche is North Korea’s official ideology, loosely meaning self-reliance. It was the idea of Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the “original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought”, according to the North Korean government. It promotes the version of Korean ethnic nationalism, which in turn promotes the Kim family as the saviours of the ‘Korean Race’ and has created a three-generation personality cult that has been ruling the country with an iron hand since 1948.
In the 70s, his son Kim Jong-il introduced ‘Kimilsungism’ with the official status of Maoism and Stalinism in Korea, which is being propagated by Kim Jong-un. In North Korea, the world’s last vicious Communist dictatorship, Kim has the last word.
As a defiant nuclear power, which has been threatening the US with annihilation, North Korea under Kim Jong-un is the biggest international pariah. The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved sanctions against the country.
The latest test—the sixth since October 2006 when the first nuclear test was carried out—provoked additional sanctions. Psychological evaluation of his personality, based on DSM-IV psychopathological syndromes and personality disorders identify him as possessing the same pathological traits as Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. These are the ‘Big Six’ constellation of personality disorders of dictators: sadistic, anti-social, paranoid, narcissistic, schizoid and schizotypal.Kim and his regime are obsessively secretive. Reports that have leaked out of the country by the rare successful defector and intelligence agencies show a paranoid megalomaniac who ordered the murder of his half-brother Kim Jong-nam. Anyone who threatened Kim’s position in the family was eliminated ruthlessly. On December 12, 2013, Kim had ordered the execution of uncle Jang Song-thaek. The charge was ‘treachery’ towards the country and its leader.
There have been reports that many in Jang Song-thaek’s family were also massacred. Published material notes that before he was killed, two of his trusted deputies were machine-gunned and their bodies burned with flame throwers. Jang suffered the same fate in the same place. Chinese state media, however, reported that he was torn apart by a pack of 120 dogs. More than 140 party and military officials have been savagely executed under Kim, while their colleagues were forced to watch, says the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, a South Korean National Intelligence Service body. According to the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, satellite images have caught images of an execution using anti-aircraft machine guns. Public executions of real or imagined opponents of the Party and the regime are common in Pyongyang. Religion is banned—there is only one god in North Korea, which is Kim Jong-un. Criticism of the Supreme Leader is punishable by hard labour or the firing squad. Destroying North Korean newspapers is also a crime, since the Kims are featured or mentioned on every page.
The story of the Kims is a tale of extravagance and ostentation, coupled with deadly court intrigues like in a medieval thriller. Earlier this year, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam was killed in Kuala Lumpur by two women suspected to be North Korean agents, who suffocated him with a rag soaked with the nerve agent VX. Kim Jong-nam, born to Kim Jong-il and his lover, had been spending most of his exile with his girlfriend gambling in party places like Macau. Kim Jong-un was envious of him, since he was their father’s favourite. Diplomats had to buy Kim Jong-nam pricey toys, diamond watches and gold-plated guns from abroad. They even drove matching Cadillacs. Kim Jong-il would throw $1 million birthday parties for his beloved illegitimate son.
Once Kim Jong-un was born, it was his turn to be lavished with presents and honours. He dressed him in full military uniform. In 2003, Kim Jong-il’s former sushi chef wrote a memoir under the sobriquet Kenji Fujimoto. It draws a picture of a psychopath growing up in a family dictatorship with divine delusions. On meeting with Kim Jong-un as a seven-year-old, he writes, “A certain ruthlessness seemed to shine through even then; he glared at me with a menacing look when we shook hands. I will never forget the look in his eyes, which seemed to be saying, ‘This is one despicable Japanese guy’.” He had hated the Japanese even before he started shooting missiles over them.
The Kim hagiography consumes all aspects of life in North Korea. The founder Kim Il-sung was called the “Sun of the Nation” and could do no wrong. Son Kim Jong-il went by the title of “The Dear Leader” to distinguish him from his father, who was also venerated as the “The Great Leader”. Kim Jong-un is the Grand Marshal or Generalissimo and the Shining Sun. He has also named himself “Yongmyong-han Tongji” (Brilliant Comrade). The Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea since 1948, is officially called the Mount Paektu Bloodline, in the manner of emperors, claiming divine right to rule. And what a rule it is. In the 90s, half a million North Koreans starved to death, while Kim Jong Il ran up a bill of $800,000 in Hennessy cognac.
The Kims have used the state machinery to create mystique around the family. Men in Korea get “ambition haircuts” copying their leader’s bouffant. They have created a legend around themselves, imbued with divine allusions. When Kim Jong-il died, the unflappable North Korean media reported that the sky above sacred Mount Paektu had a red glow minutes before his death and that the ice on volcanic Lake Chon cracked with a load roar. Among the many miracles attributed by the North Korean media to Kim Jong-il is that he invented the hamburger. The official story about his birth is that a double rainbow and a new star appeared in the sky heralding the mighty event. North Korea is a Disneyland of Dictatorship, shaped purely by the whims of the Mount Paektu Bloodline. All over the country, and especially in Pyongyang stand gigantic statues of the Kims. A half-kilometre-long message emblazoned on a hillside in Ryanggang Province proclaims, “Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!”
The Kims have turned North Korea into a martial society where the Army controls the nation at their behest. Military parades, with goose-stepping soldiers and lavish weapons display, have glamour too—North Korean Navy’s women soldiers wear short skirts during such parades. Like dictators such as Gaddafi who liked to keep women around, Kim Jong-un is reportedly a voyeur. He has young, female companions to form a “pleasure troupe” to entertain him.
Such delusions of grandeur makes Kim Jong-un a very dangerous man. Says a senior Japanese diplomat, “He really believes he is divine and therefore invincible, though he is not likely to declare war against the US. It could lead, however, to a serious armed confrontation with Japan and South Korea.”
Domestic opposition to Kim is muted, and many Koreans believe in his omnipotence. Kim Il-sung, the father of Korean nationalism after the 1919 Japanese invasion, had wiped out all traces of ethnic identity. On June 25, 1950, he invaded South Korea. Though he didn’t succeed, he is venerated as the champion of pan-Korean gestalt—the god of national pride.
The shrewd Kim Jong-un uses North Korea’s nuclear status as a deterrent to attacks from its powerful enemies. Steeped in symbolism, Kim decided to launch its first intercontinental ballistic missile powerful enough to reach the mainland US on July 4, American Independence Day. Though China, Kim’s best ally, is covertly pleased at his chutzpah, it lodged “stern representations” with the North Korean embassy in Beijing and hoped it would “exercise restraint and refrain from further escalating tensions”.
According to Russian media, apartment buildings and furniture inside apartments trembled in Vladivostok, the nearest Russian city to North Korea, after its hydrogen bomb test on September 3. Though Russia condemned the test, it didn’t go along with the sanctions. The region has become militarily volatile. After North Korea’s test, South Korea conducted live fire exercises and announced it would strengthen its US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD), causing China, which will come under its radar, to feel insecure. “It inevitably will raise the question about our reaction, about our military balances,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. As expected, Russia underlined the importance of talking to Kim. An atomic war will benefit none: all of Korea will become a nuclear wasteland.
“The US has threatened massive retaliation if North Korea continues on its nuclear path. But the worry is that President Donald Trump can be unstable. He might feel a war with the Koreans will help his sagging image,” says a New Delhi-based security analyst. India insists a nuclear North Korea is not a danger, though it deplored the tests. But the hidden concern is the nuclear help Kim Jong-un is giving Pakistan.
Hatred of America is meat and drink to Kim, who projects himself as the god whose nuclear war has terrified the US. It makes his position stronger in his own country and makes him the fulcrum of anti-US forces in the world. For decades, North Koreans believed the Japanese stole time from them back during the occupation. On August 15, 2015, Kim Jong-un set North Korea’s clocks back by half an hour. For Kim and his Korea, the clock is ticking.
Jan 2003: North Korea exits Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty
Feb 2005: Admits to possessing nuclear weapons
Oct 9, 2006: Successfully conducts first nuclear test
Dec 31, 2007: Misses deadline
to disable its nuclear weapons facilities
April 5, 2009: Launches
long-range rocket which flies over Japan and lands in the Pacific. US, Japan and South Korea see it as a disguised test
of a missile.
May 25, 2009: Conducts second nuclear test
April 2012: Test-fires a
Feb 12, 2013: Conducts third underground nuclear test.
Jan 6-7, 2016: US detects fourth nuclear test which North Korea claims is a "hydrogen bomb"
March 9, 2016: Announces it has miniature nuclear warheads that can fit on ballistic missiles
Sept 9, 2016: Claims to have detonated a nuclear warhead, most powerful test so far
June 2017: Tests a new rocket engine which can be fitted to an intercontinental ballistic missile
July 2017: Tests first ICBM which could possibly reach Alaska, Hawaii, and maybe Seattle with a 500 kg payload
Aug 2017: Test-fires three short range ballistic missiles and one over Northern Japan
Sept 2017: Launches ballistic missile which flew over 3,700 km for 17 minutes before falling into the Pacific
Sept 3, 2017: The most powerful nuclear test with a 250 kt yield, or nearly 17 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb
HIGH ON HORROR
Enemies are executed, using machine guns and flame throwers while their colleagues are made
Five senior security officials were blown to bits with anti-aircraft guns for annoying Kim Jong-il
Uncle was torn apart by a pack of wild dogs, according to Chinese media
Half-brother Kim Jong-nam was assassinated using nerve agents
MOUNTAIN OF MYTHS
Kim Jong-Il was born on a sacred mountain. A new star appeared in the heavens at the time of the birth and winter turned to spring.
His official biography states he never used a toilet because his body miraculously didn’t need to urinate or defecate
He was a gifted sailor as a youth and learned to drive at the age of three
He was also a world famous fashion designer, musical composer and artist