Becoming Kim Jong Un by Jung H. Pak

Becoming Kim Jong Un is written by a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer who has accumulated knowledge about the development of North Korea under the new leader, Kim Jong Un. The writer gives a brief history of Kim Jong Un's grandfather, Kim Il Sung as a founder of North Korea and his concept of Korean-style socialism - Juche which means self-reliance. The self-created idea solidified his self-declared position as the suryong, the unitary leader of North Korea.

The regime portrays Kim Jong Un as a genius child with a "messianic destiny", which the writer compares with how Christians encourage the believers to walk in the way of their god. The continuous propaganda with images of the nation in a perpetual state of war and the infantilisation method with the preschool colour schemes of new buildings are some of the powerful ways used to dictate an individual's life. However, frustrations are rising among some young people because they were denied any advancements due to their family background. It's a challenge for Kim Jong Un between his ability to contain the growing level of frustration through continuous repression and fulfiling his promise of prosperity to the country.

The regime's propaganda had brainwashed people into thinking that South Koreans lived in poverty while North Koreans lived in paradise. The political prison camps, also known as kwanliso, have been described by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry as camps that "serve to permanently remove from society those groups, families, and individuals that may politically, ideologically, or economically challenge the current political system and leadership." Prisoners, especially children, are usually unaware of the reason for being taken by security officers to the isolated camps. Watching South Korean movies, attempting to flee to China, involving in banned economic activity, having had contact with Christian missionaries or owning a Bible are among the worst crimes for the regime.

Surveillance is a statewide affair. Everyone is an informer or a potential informer, and everyone is vulnerable to punishment for real and perceived crimes. The writer has continuously pointed out that the two pillars of the regime's survival are repression and the nuclear weapons program. She explains the struggle of Kim Jong Un living between being seen as a modern leader and relying on the inherited infrastructure of terror for regime survival. Despite the uncountable sanctions experienced by North Korea, the people are surviving through black markets and corruption, which brings prosperous life and also injects proportional income into the country.

It also discusses the shocking and bold purge of Kim's uncle and other senior leaders, which created fear among his closest advisers. Their survival and their families' futures depend on demonstrations of loyalty to Kim and only Kim. His supremacy was built through a combination of violence and promises of prosperity. It also reflects his recognition of the necessity of repression and the importance of absolute loyalty. This leads to another appalling but mysterious incident: his half-brother's assassination in Malaysia with a chemical weapon.

Besides the domestic issues faced by Kim Jong Un in controlling his regime, this book also provides insights into the leader's skills in dealing with other countries, especially the United States, South Korea and China. It was very informative and offered the readers a different perspective about Kim Jong Un. Personally, the book wasn't what I expected, or maybe I misunderstood its purpose. I was hoping for something more about Kim Jong Un's life or more in-depth biography about him, which seems impossible when thinking about it. Maybe I'd read quite a decent amount of information about North Korea, and I was expecting more than just a surface. However, it's not a badly written book, and it's worth reading for those interested in Kim Jong Un's background and leadership style.

ISBN: 9781786077172 (ebook)
Number of Pages: 288
Rating: ★★★ (3/5)
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