The first mention of Jong-Il’s third, and preferred, son, Kim Jong-un, came in the memoirs of a Japanese sushi chef who claims he became a drinking chum of North Korea’s “Dear Leader“. One photo shows a flabby-cheeked boy with a mischievous grin. Past classmates at a Swiss boarding school refer to an introverted student who adored basketball and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
South Korea has described him as gung-ho and determined. There have been accounts of his ferocious competitive streak when playing basketball with his brother, Kim Jong-chul, who was cruelly dismissed by his father after one -drinking binge, as too “girlish” to lead.
Recent propoganda had shown him one minute as a theme-park loving family man. The next he is threatening death and destruction upon us all. United States military intelligence agencies have created a psychological profile of Jong-un. It assesses him as an inexact and inexperienced young man who feels obligated to prove how tough he is.
However nature or nurture have impacted on Jong-un’s background and character, he finds himself the leader of a country deeply mired in poverty and famine. His heirloom is managed as a police state, with concentration camps and re-education facilities among the numerous reported human-rights abuses. Whether he turns out to be the moderate he claims to be or a clone of his pugnacious and despotic father will largely depend on his actions in coming days.
Today the Guardian has reported that the US and South Korean combined forces command in the South have stepped up surveillance of the North and added intelligence staff as the region prepares for an expected missile test.
The joint command has increased its alert level one notch above the standard status, an unnamed military official told the South’s Yonhap news agency, while Seoul’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, told parliament the prospects of a launch were “very high”.
This weekend I will take shelter under the blossom of the Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival (여의도 봄꽃축제) in Seoul. I had considered building an impromptu air-raid shelter and taking up residence inside, fortified by the dulcied tones of Guy Garvey singing “Build a Rocket Boys” but the blossom won!