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Kim Jong-un (Kim Jong Woon)

Kim Jong Un was elected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK at the Fourth Session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) held on 29 June 2016, reflecting the unanimous will and desire of all deputies to the SPA, service personnel and civilians. The state affairs commission replaces the National Defense Commission (NDC), which Kim led as the chairman. The one-day SPA session was held after the seventh congress of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.

During the event, Kim was unanimously elected as the "Chairman of the Workers' Party," a position once held by North Korean founder and his grandfather Kim Il-sung. The North customarily convened a SPA session to approve changes in government policies. The SPA is largely considered as a rubber-stamp organization for the North Korean dictatorship.

The state media sometimes shows Kim Jong-un's wife, Ri Sol-ju. And virtually nothing is known about their three children, the oldest of whom was believed to 6 years old as of 2017.

The honorific of Kim Jong-un initially remained ambiguous. Clearly, Kim Il-sung was the "Great Leader", Kim Jong-il was the "Dear Leader", and collectively they are known as the "Great Leaders". The "Highest Dignity” is one honorific term to refer to Kim Jong Un.

In the negotiation for the Convention between Prussia and the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimer, of the 1st June 1815, His Majesty the King of Prussia, named Plenipotentiary the Prince Hardenberg, his Chancellor of State, "Knight of the Grand Orders of the Black Eagle and the Red Eagle, of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and of the Iron Cross of Prussia; of the Orders of St. Andrew, of St. Alexander Newsky, and of St. Anne of Russia of the First Class; Grand Cross of the Royal Order of St. Stephen of Hungary, Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honour, Grand Cross of the Order of St. Charles of Spain, of St. Hubert of Bavaria, of the Supreme Order of the Annunciation of Sardinia, Knight of the Order of the Seraphim of Sweden, of the Elephant of Denmark, of the Golden Eagle of Wurtemburg, etc."

Things are a bit simpler these days, but the question of Kim Jong-un's honorific remains unsettled. Initially, he was hailed as "The Great Successor", but that seems to have worn off. Some times he is hailed as the "Great Marshal", a curious title given his lack of military experience apart from shooting off rockets. This honorific is some times amplified by "Outstanding and Talented, Beloved and Esteemed / Respected", but that is a bit of a mouthful. Some sources call him the Supreme Leader, which is to the point, and has the additional benefit of being true.

The term "Highest Dignity" is used to refer to leader Kim Jong-un. The standard Korean dictionary uses “dignity” to mean highness and nobility that cannot be tarnished. In old times, it refered to the king. Modifiers such as “highest” suggest there is no one else to match Kim. “Highest dignity” is a newly coined phrase in North Korea. North Korea is known to have first used the expression “highest dignity” on 03 May 2009. By 2014 The term “Highest Dignity“ had entered common use among the North Korean populace as a way to refer to Kim Jong Eun.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on 03 December 2017 suggested the North Korean leader was mentally unstable, despite previous, public assessments from Central Intelligence Agency officials that for all the dangers, Kim is a “very rational actor.” Sanders said “The president and the people of this country should be concerned about the mental fitness of the leader of North Korea ... He’s made repeated threats. He’s tested missiles time and time again for years.” In the past, Trump had referred to Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man,” and said he was “obviously a madman.”

Those assessments from the White House, though, contrast to what CIA officials have been saying for months, arguing that while the threat from North Korea is grave, Kim Jong Un is not crazy. Instead, they have said the North Korean leader displays “clarity of purpose” even as he antagonizes and provokes on the world stage. “Kim Jong Un is a very rational actor,” Yong Suk Lee, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, said at an agency-sponsored event in October 2017. “Bluster and rhetoric aside, Kim Jong Un has no desire to go toe to toe with [U.S. and South Korea’s] combined forces command,” Lee said. “Kim Jong Un wants what all authoritarian rulers want ... to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.”

There are concerns that Kim’s ability to think and act rationally is limited. “We don’t think he has an understanding about how tenuous his position is,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California in December 2017, suggesting, “Those around him are not feeding him the truth about the place he finds himself and how precarious his position is in the world today.”

South Korea’s top spy agency said 20 August 2020 that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has delegated some of his power over the country to other senior officials, including his younger sister. The National Intelligence Service(NIS) reported the observation to the National Assembly Intelligence Committee, assessing that it is aimed at relieving some of Kim's burden from governing state affairs, according to ranking lawmakers at the committee. The NIS speculated that behind the political arrangement in the North is the North Korean leader’s intention to avert responsibility in case his policies fail. NIS was quick to add, however, that Kim is still wielding “absolute power” in the regime and that it is not part of a power succession or transition scheme. The agency said most of Kim’s delegated power was given to his sister Kim Yo-jong, but some other officials were also entrusted with power, including Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Pak Pong-ju and new Premier Kim Tok-hun.

On 15 January 2009 South Korean news agency Yonhap reported North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had tapped his third son to be his successor and sent his nomination to the leadership of the ruling party. The reportedly ailing Kim Jong-il "delivered a directive around January 8 that he has named [Kim] Jong-un as his successor to the leadership of the Workers' Party," Yonhap quoted a well-informed source as saying on condition of anonymity. Yonhap said Jong-un's nomination was completely unexpected in North Korea, even among the Worker's Party leadership, and was most likely driven by Kim Jong-il's rapidly deteriorating health.

On 17 January 2009 a source inside the ROK Ministry of Unification (MoU) stated "The succession issue generates diverse rumors, but nothing is confirmed. We have not heard of an instruction appointing Jong Woon as successor to Kim Jong Il being transmitted to the Guidance Department of the Party." Kim Jong Il's second son, Jong Cheol, who was said at one stage to be suffering from narcotics addition, in addition to abnormal testosterone levels and other undesirable health conditions, was allegedly being supported in the succession battle by the First Vice Directors of the Guidance Department Lee Jeh Gang and Lee Yong Cheol. Some reports claimed that Jong Woon had serious hypertension and diabetes.

Yonhap news agency reported 26 April 2009 that Kim Jong-il's youngest son, 26-year-old Kim Jong Un, took up a low-level post at the National Defense Commission a few days before the Parliament reappointed Kim Jong-il as the commission's chairman on 09 April 2009. Kim Jong-un was expected to assume higher-level Defense Commission posts in preparation to succeed his father.

In April 2010 Mainichi printed a photo of a young man [suspected of being Kim Jong-un] accompanying North Korea's "Dear Leader" on a visit to a steel mill in North Hamgyong Province. But this photograph does not resemble subsequent portraits. Kim Jong-un was also reported to have organised the fireworks display along the Taedong River in Pyongyang marking the 98th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the nation and Kim Jong-il's father.

Earnest efforts were made by North Korea to consolidate Kim Jong-un’s regime and build a personality cult around him. Since early 2010, the regime publicly circulated the song ‘Footsteps,’ which is known to praise Kim Jong-un, and at the centennial celebration of Kim Il-sung’s birth on April 14, 2010, a slogan that had fallen into disuse, ‘Defend the Central Committee to the death,’ was reintroduced.

On 25 June 2010 the official Korean Central News Agency reported that the Korean Workers' Party would convene a meeting in early September 2010 to elect its "highest leading body". This was generally viewed as a step toward holding a Party Congress [which had not been convened since 1980], which could herald a transfer of power designating leader Kim Jong Il's third son, Kim Jong Un, as his successor.

Kim Jong-un was promoted to four-star general on September 27, 2010, and the following day, he was appointed to Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission at the Conference of Party Representatives. These steps were necessary to lay the institutional foundation that would enable the young leader to assume roles in both the WPK and military. As Vice Chairman, Kim Jong-un presented himself at a military parade on October 10, 2010 to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the WPK, and this image as a competent figurehead of North Korea’s armed forces thus served to enhance the military’s allegiance. The election of Kim Jong-un as one of the two Vice-Chairmen of the NDC of the State and the CMC of the party clearly placed him in a position to succeed his father as the ruler of North Korea.

Kim Jong-un made his first public appearance at the Conference of Party Representatives on September 28, 2010. Throughout the rest of that year, he made a total of 38 public appearances, such as visiting soldiers in joint exercises on October 5, 2010, thus taking further action to secure his successive line to power. Meanwhile, North Korea presented the ‘spirit of the Party Conference’ upon the 1st anniversary of the 3rd Conference of Party Representatives, and called for the spirit of solidarity, relentless march, and ongoing revolution. Through such motivation, the regime directed efforts to achieve various political goals, including those that would consolidate Kim Jong-il’s leadership and his control over the WPK while securing Kim Jong-un’s hereditary succession.

North Korea proclaimed the beginning of the Kim Jong Un era on Thursday 22 December 2011, describing him as the "successor" of the nation's revolutionary undertakings "and leader of its people." Kim Jong Un, the youngest of Kim Jong-il's three sons, holds the military rank of a four-star general, despite having little military experience and being in his late 20s. In a dispatch late Saturday 23 December 2011, the official Korean Central News Agency called General Kim the "supreme leader of the revolutionary armed forces." KCNA hailed Mr. Kim as "supreme commander" - the first use of that title, also used by his late father. And on Monday 22 December 2011, the Communist Party's Rodong Sinmun referred to Kim Jong Un as leader of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, a post that gave Kim Jong Un power over one of the country's highest decision-making bodies.

On 12 April 2019 Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un was elected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at the First Session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA). Reflecting the general will of all the Korean people, the SPA solemnly declared at home and abroad that Kim Jong Un who is making a new history of modeling the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism with his outstanding ideological and theoretical wisdom and experienced and seasoned leadership. For the first time, however, state media referred to Kim as “supreme representative of all the Korean people.” That title was approved by special decree in February but has not been used publicly until this meeting. Pyongyang also named a new Premier of its cabinet, Kim Jae Ryong, replacing Pak Pong Ju who had reportedly held his current post since 2013.

 Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong-un was born in 1983 to Kim Jong-il's third wife, Ko Yong-hi, who died of breast cancer at the age of 51 in 2004. The identity of his late mother, Ko Young Hui, is a state secret because she was of multiethnic Japanese and Korean heritage and born in Japan, making her a member of the lowest class in North Korea’s songbun caste system. Additionally, she was never Kim Jong Il’s wife. Kim is believed to have been born on Jan. 8, 1984, but North Korean state media has previously said he was born in 1982. According to Yonhap, the youngest of Kim's three sons, Jong-un was educated at the International School of Berne and is a fan of NBA basketball.

In November 2020 North Korea published an official biography of its leader Kim Jong Un, but the book omitted significant details like his date and place of birth and his childhood education in Switzerland. Entitled “Comrade Kim Jong Un’s Revolutionary History”, the book was distributed to libraries, educational institutions, factories and companies nationwide in commemoration of the Oct. 10 75th anniversary of the 1945 founding of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party. The biography was put out by the party’s publishing house, with striking omissions. This book is the only official publication of the activities of the Highest Dignity in terms of revolutionary history. But the biography is very strange that it does not reveal when and where the Highest Dignity was born. This history of Kim’s life begins with his college years at Kim Il Sung Military University and makes no mention of his having studied in Switzerland as a youth. Kim Jong-chul's younger brother Kim Jong-un / Kim Jong-woong / Kim Jung-woon was apparently born in the 1983 to 1985 timeframe, though accounts are in conflict. Indeed, as of May 2001 the BBC was unaware of the fact of the existence of this individual. Kim Jong-Ils youngest son also may have been in the running for succession, though Kim Jong-chul would normally be favored because he is the elder.

Writing under his pen name, Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese sushi chef who worked for Kim Jong-il for 13 years wrote a best-selling memoir, "I Was Kim Jong Il's Cook." Specialists following North Korea characterize Fujimoto's accounts as being credible. According to one account, "Fujimoto said, Kim would often bemoan that Kim Jong Chul, his 23-year old son, would never rule because he had turned out to be "like a girl." Fujimoto said Kim doted on his youngest son -- Kim Jong Woon, [then] 18, who looks like the North Korean leader." According to one rumor, Koh Yong Hee had ordered the Workers Party and high officials to call Jong-Woon the "Morning Star King".

In August 2004, international speculation regarding the North Korean succession increased due to reports in the South Korean press that Koh Yong Hee had died. Her favored position with Kim Jong-il, and her status among the North Korean armed forces had previously seemed to constitute tools to help entrench the authority and ensure the succession of one of her Kim Jong-il-sired sons - Kim Jong Chol and Kim Kong Woon. However, if reports of her death are true, some speculate that not only will this process be much more difficult, it may even open an opportunity for the shamed Kim Jong Nam to reassert his claim on the future leadership.

Chosun Ilbo reported 29 August 2013 that Kim Jong-un's ex-girlfriend was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad on Aug. 20. Singer Hyon Song-wol, along with Mun Kyong-jin, head of the Unhasu Orchestra, were arrested 17 August 2013 for violating North Korean laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later. Other victims members of the Unhasu Orchestra as well as singers, musicians and dancers with the Wangjaesan Light Music Band. They were accused of videotaping themselves having sex and selling the videos. The tapes had apparently gone on sale in China as well. Some allegedly had Bibles in their possession, and all were treated as political dissidents.

Kim met Hyon about a decade earlier, before either of them was married. He was later ordered to break off the relationship by his father Kim Jong-il, and she married a soldier. Since then there have been rumors that the two were having an affair. Kim's wife Ri Sol-ju was also a member of the Unhasu Orchestra before she married him. Whether she had any hand in the executions is unclear.

Ri Sol-ju, confirmed as the "first lady" of North Korea, made her first public appearance on 07 July 2012 as DPRK's Korean Central Television and the Rodong Sinmun website disclosed a video footage of her watching a Moranbong band performance together with Kim Jong-un, the first secretary of the Korean Worker's Party.

As Kim attended a series of public events with the same woman, opinions were expressed that this might be his wife. Ri stood beside Kim and clapped hands together and she followed Kim as he left the events-- typical first lady behaviors. On 08 July 2012, when she visited Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to pay homage with the first secretary, her manners were confident while the high level military officers behaved in a carefully constrained way.

Born in 1985, she finished her study at a graduate school in North Korea's elite Kim Il-sung University. Her family is from Sunam District in Cheongjin City, where her father works as a professor at the city's university and her mother as the Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at the district hospital."

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 18:04:28 ZULU