The Brilliant Comrade: reading the tea leaves

The DPRK has such a cloud of mystery around it that it spawns an industry of authors and journalists who pick through the available scraps of information to try to construct a narrative of what might possibly be going on – some of which might be true but much of which is pure speculation.

It seems that the best information that we have about the DPRK’s leader-in-waiting is sourced from Kim Jong-il’s former sushi chef and a couple of South Korean soothsayers.

Sunny Lee reports in the Asia Times (All power to the little general, 2 Oct) that fortune tellers divine that Kim Jong-un is “a violent character and is prone to display double standards. If he is not satisfied with something, he may not express it immediately, but then he won’t keep his cool for a long time either.” That’s on the basis of an analysis of his facial features as revealed in some grainy footage of the recent party congress grabbed from a North Korean TV broadcast.

Kim Jong-un

Meanwhile, sushi chef Kenji Fujimoto, who is one of the few people outside North Korea to know the DPRK’s latest four-star general personally, has been subject to threats and is under police protection. Fujimoto reports that the young Kim shows a talent for leadership on the basketball court – probably better than his father’s football coaching skills.

Sunny Lee’s article reports the following claims made for the abilities of Kim Jong-un (aka the Brilliant Comrade)

He’s a genius in artillery engineering; he was the prime architect behind the North’s rocket launch in April 2009, and he’s a talented computer engineer. Other reports claim that he choreographed the massive April 5 fireworks display to celebrate the birthday of the late Kim Il-sung, his grandfather and founder of the Kim dynasty.

For those who understandably find the governance structure of the DPRK hard to fathom, the Joongang Ilbo has a stab at explaining it (The North’s New Power Elite, 30 Sept):

DPRK power structure

They also try to unpick the Kim dynasty family tree (The Man without a Face or Birthday, 29 Sept):

Kim Dynasty family tree

All three articles are worth a read. And there will no doubt be many more.

Thanks as ever to Tom Coyner’s Korea Economic Reader for the above clips.

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