Kim Jong-un: Inside the mind of a young dictator

Kim Jong-un is the man currently regarded as joint favourite to start world war three, alongside the equally egotistical maniac in the White House. Yet, despite North Korea’s vow to obliterate the United States of America, the ‘Kim dynasty’, three generations of dictatorship since the reign of Kim-Il-sung, has rarely been met with anything near respect from overseas. Hollywood portrayed former supreme leader Kim-Jong-il as nothing more than a man-child, whilst many media reports keep in place a reputation of tyranny mixed with infighting and death to anyone who steps out of line. Behind all of this, what goes on in the mind of the young dictator Kim Jong-un?

Simeon Evans

Raising the dictator

Kim went to a very prestigious school in Switzerland called ‘the international school of Berne’. Of course, he didn’t go there as the son of the North Korean dictator, he arrived at the school in 1998 as the son of a North Korean ambassador. Kim later moved from this excessively expensive school, because he was reportedly failing class, and therefore essentially wasting his father’s money. He was moved to a state school down the road in Berne where he nearly finished his education, before being pulled out in the middle of the year to attend to the duties we all know him for now. Those who knew him best such as Joao Micaelo, his Portuguese buddy, stated that he was good at math, but not much else academically, whilst he always loved basketball.

North Korea Rodman

Kim Jong Un and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korean and U.S. players in an exhibition basketball game at an arena in Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb. 2013. (AP Photo/VICE Media, Jason Mojica)

When he was at school he stayed in an apartment near North Korea’s embassy under constant watch. Joao who went over to his house said that he had all the latest gadgets and was a pretty normal guy, he was a bit quiet and didn’t join in much in class, especially when the teacher started mentioning democracy and its benefits – awkward. Can you imagine how hard it would be sitting in a school in Seoul, South Korea trying to do learn about Korean culture, in Korean? Most struggle at school in their own language.

Most of what you read about Kim has to be taken as assumptions, not fact, because we cannot know for sure, for example, even how the country is laid out geographically. If you look at North Korea on Google maps, you will see that the country is mostly blacked out. We know barely anything of their roads or infrastructure, except that of what we have been shown by the journalists who have travelled there and sneaked videos out. The stories about Kim and his father and grandfather (who is widely revered as the eternal president, some even go as far as saying God like) are all subject to debate. What is widely recognised as fact is that Kim is the youngest of three brothers, and he was chosen to be the leader because he looked the most like his grandfather; details which are important when you are trying to convince the public their new leader is God like.

Unlike his father, and grandfather, Kim likely thinks of himself as more of a man of the people. He is supporting the North Korea’s farmers, whilst they are state owned, and he allows them to keep some of the crops themselves. . There are also reports that for the first time there are businesses sprouting up in Pyongyang, and people are actually getting money back from these ventures. There are even growing rumours that capitalism is being adopted in North Korea which would make sense, as the country is unlikely to be able to go on forever as a solitary country, only exporting to China.

Kim is seen shaking hands with his people, something his father strictly never did, he has a woman by his side that is believed to be his wife, again something unprecedented. This new approach to leadership has led to people thinking that perhaps he has shown a softer side. There have also been reports that would suggest otherwise, however; his uncle who had defied Kim faced an almost Hollywood movie style demise. Depending on which report you read, his uncle and his family were either shot, had a rocket launched at them or fed to the dogs.

North Koreans bow beneath portraits of the late leaders Kim Jong

North Koreans bow beneath portraits of the late leaders Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

Why does North Korea appear to hate the outside world, and especially the United States?

The story goes back to World War II. Korea used to be one country before the Japanese empire invaded it and used it as a sovereign state, thus ending all leadership in Korea.  During World War II, Japanese forces and those in power were believed to have exploited the Koreans, with nearly 700,000 Koreans taken to Japan and forced into slavery. As a result, hate for Japan is shared by many North and South Koreans to this day. After the Second World War, the UN took Korea from Japan and split it to North and South. The North went to the Soviet Union aka Russia, aka Stalin, and the South went to the USA. This was part of a plan to build the countries into a democracy and hand it back to the Korean people once it had been established: sound familiar? Of course, this never happened. This led to a Korean war between the North and the South, essentially proxy wars between the USA and USSR. Once this had been tussled out between the two super nations, Korea was left in total disarray.

Enter Kim Il Sung. Kim Il Sung was put into power by the soviets to maintain the dictatorship under the influence of Stalin. Sung first went on the attack to try and gain control of the South. For a while he was succeeding, and made substantial ground into South Korea. The Americans, despite withdrawing a lot of their troops previously, decided the situation in Korea could not be left to play out. This led to a retaliation, led by the American General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur moved troops up towards the 38th parallel that separates the two countries, and flanked the North, thus pushing them back to Pyongyang. This mission was so successful that the USA continued right up into the North, towards the Chinese border. Not being ones to embrace the American military so close to their country, the Chinese stepped in and pushed them back to the 38th parallel, to what we know as roughly the border today. In this time, the USA dropped 635,000 tons of bombs in the Korean War.

It is here that North Korea’s hatred for the USA is widely believed to have started. Because the USA have such a military might within South Korea and Japan, North Korea are rather stuck in the middle. Combine that with their distrust of their South Korean and Japanese brothers and you get the beginnings of a hot pot of anger.

North Korea’s research and development is continually broadcast. They have long attempted to create a Nuclear weapon that can sit on top of an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), something that can travel 11,300km to other shores. This has put the rest of the world on high alert. In recent weeks, we have seen that the North Koreans have had substantial advances in their missile firing capabilities and their output, leading to sanctions being imposed by the UN. The sanctions weren’t really followed, however, and therefore they have been increased again, with the aim of taking a third of their income from exports. The truly worrying thing about Kim Jong-un and Korea is the fact that these sanctions appear unable to deter him; the money gets pumped into their military force, and despite the evidence that suggests the tide may be shifting towards capitalism, North Korea is very much still a dictatorship, with 2 in 5 of its people undernourished and 70% of their country relying on food aid from the UN.

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Quite simply, the rest of the world cannot attack North Korea right now, and Kim knows this. He has a lot of advantages going in his favour. The US can’t simply drop a nuclear bomb; the UN wouldn’t allow it, plus you then have China to deal with who have already said they would defend their ally if anyone tried to attack them first, and that’s not a bluff you want to call. You can’t attack on land, because it’s strategically very difficult, you can’t even attack their missile bases because they are spread out across the country and US intelligence hasn’t identified where many of them are. For instance, the one we do know about is only 35 miles from the capital of South Korea, Seoul to the border of North Korea.


Having a nuclear weapon has made the world take notice of North Korea, before that, it was just a small country with a crazed family, like a small fish in a big pond, but now that small fish knows how to bite through shark skin. For that purpose, I do get why Kim wants Nuclear weapons. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want countries having nuclear weapons full stop, but now that some countries in the world do I can’t blame others wanting to get in on that nuclear pie. The world has made these advancements in warfare possible, because unfortunately, we know that war means money and power. When you look at world leaders through this lens, instead of thinking that they are caring for the good of their nation, you get an understanding that perhaps there isn’t too much difference between Kim’s ambitions and the rest of the world’s nuclear weapons owners.

On paper, Kim’s actions seem indefensible. He has:

  • Put people in concentration camps
  • Killed his own people when they refuse to follow his command
  • Allowed malnourishment of nearly half the population

Well, from Kim’s point of view:

  • In major wars, Hitler, Mao, and Stalin had concentration camps, as did the Japanese, Americans, and the British. 
  • Despite the monarchy not having the power they once did, back in the day, if you insulted or disobeyed King/Queen it was punishable by death. In the UK, the last hanging for high treason was in 1946.
  • Malnutrition, perhaps one of the most abhorrent things a ruler can abide, is still seen in some of the world’s richest countries, even today. 1 in 7 people in America survive by way of foodbanks  . In the UK, our own emergency services are claiming food vouchers because of cuts to pay – these people are actively saving people’s lives and cannot afford their own food. Just because it is dressed up differently does not mean the same situation is not happening on our doorstep. Of course it isn’t as extreme, however having the USA and UK (and others) spending billions on weapons, whilst their people are using foodbanks could be seen as a modern twist on the North Korean regime.

In Kim’s mind, he is just acting like any other psychotic world leader with the power to abuse his people.

So why is he bothering with all this at all? He can’t attack South Korea or Japan, nor can he attack the US with any significant force, yet. He has suggested their missiles can now reach the West Coast of the USA, but weapons experts defy the legitimacy of these claims. It’s like that kid in school saying he’s got the new iPhone from his trip to China, it could be a real iPhone, but it’s probably just a fake, it’s not until he ‘fires it up’ that you get to see. Kim sits in North Korea with a rather large chip on his shoulder, and small package in his pants. It’s the old ‘how big is yours competition’. The jocks in school endlessly bragging about stuff no one really cares about, but you should take notice, else they will do something stupid and may even endanger you. The worst thing is, Kim now has his western twin to compete with in Donald Trump, like a disastrous fraternity rivalry you see in the movies. The stupidity of the two men trying to measure their manhood’s with nuclear missiles, is as pathetic as being in a bar and telling everyone how much money you spent on a bottle of champagne, you just look like a moron and no one is impressed. The situation we as a world find ourselves in at the moment is, two very deranged men acting like little kids who cannot get a long, throwing insults at each other via social media.

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Some would argue Trump’s recent comments about ‘fire and fury’ are actually what you would want the leader of your country to say if another country was threatening it, like Kim is doing at the moment with Guam. To an extent it is understandable for Trump to give a military warning to Kim, as nothing else seems to have worked. However, the problem stems from the fact that we wouldn’t have to be in this current position if both these cartoon characters would stop pushing and pulling; not that the issue would go away completely, but at least you wouldn’t have these two at the helm. 

Kim Jong-un is one of many extremely unstable people in great positions of power, though he probably doesn’t see himself as any more extreme than the others. The difference with Kim is that it seems like he feels he must prove something to the world. His grandfather went to war as, his father was notoriously aggressive and despised the West and now he should carry the torch and go one step further. It’s different from a crazed dictator from the past, where once you chop of the head the body dies with it. In North Korea, as long as there is an Un in power, then the extended Kim dynasty, and dictatorship, will continue.

Kim has experience many aspects of a western upbringing, so he knows the value and the freedom our culture can bring to a nation, and it’s likely that this only makes him more eager to stop the spread of this ideology to North Korea. He also knows the hypocrisy that the western world gets away with a lot of the time, when it comes to how we act with nations who benefit us compared to those nations who don’t. With Trump, he has someone equally as childish and irresponsible as himself to argue with, and this makes him look important to all his comrades, by threatening the rest of the world, saying they will wipe the USA of the face of the earth.

It’s hard to believe that Kim Jong-un genuinely believes in his power, but to be a dictator, common sense probably isn’t that necessary a trait. If he attacks, then that is likely ‘game over’ for the country; he must know that China won’t protect them if they strike first. One can only hope he isn’t smart enough to have realised that the way to get China involved in the war is to make America strike first. This could explain all the stick poking he is currently doing, to see if Trump snaps. If he has figured that out, and the orange-faced buffoon bites first, then all hell could very possibly break loose.

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