As the country’s missile and nuclear abilities appear to advance, here’s what you need to know about the known leading player in the regime.
Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un is the current supreme leader of North Korea, rising to power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in 2011. His mother, Ko Young-hee, was an opera singer who died in 2004.
Overall, little is known about the 33 -year-old’s early life. But he studied in Switzerland before returning to North Korea to attend the Kim il-Sung Military University in the mid-2 000 s, Michael Madden, the director of North Korea Leadership Watch and a visit scholar at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS, told Fox News. The university, which is located in Pyongyang, the country’s capital, is named after Kim Jong Un’s grandfather.
“We don’t know a tremendous amount about him[ Kim Jong Un ], ” said Madden. “But we have a enough for a good picture.”
Contrary to popular belief, Madden said the North Korean leader has a “relatively cool-headed personality” which serves as an asset. “He derives more power by being laid back and cool, ” as opposed to being reactive, Madden said.
From an early age, Kim’s mother positioned her son to be her husband’s potential successor. She pushed for him to attend military school, Madden said, where he was tutored by top North Korean officials in cannon. His schooling positioned him to be a top contender.
As for the leader’s notorious rocket program, Madden said the North Korean leader “views the missile program like a sports team.” In other terms, a athletics squad doesn’t win every game, but learns from its loss — and Kim Jong Un reportedly takes the same position point.
Kim Yo-jong is Kim Jong Un’s sister. The 30 -year-old has always been a “tomboy” with a “pleasant” personality, Madden said.
Like her friend, she also attended school in Switzerland at a young age, where she was once described as “sheltered” by the school’s principal, according to Madden.
Despite North Korea’s conservative and patriarchal society, Madden thinks that Yo-jong could easily succeed her friend one day.
“Kim Yo-jong has a bigger policy portfolio[ than her friend ], and is more powerful than we’re devoting her credit for, ” Madden said.
Indeed, in October, Kim Jong Un promoted his sister to a top decision making body, replacing her aunt as the Workers Party’s Politburo. She also serves as one of Kim Jong Un’s “closest aides, ” Madden said, and manages her brother’s schedule, his bodyguards and meetings.
As the saying runs, she’s an “iron hand in a velvet glove, ” Madden said.
Kim Sul-song is Kim Jong Un’s other sister and Kim Yo-jong’s half sibling.
Sul-song is the only daughter from her father’s “official matrimony, ” according to Madden. Kim Jong Il was polygamous, but his official spouse — as result of a matchmaking by Kim Yong-il’s father — was Kim Yong-suk. Kim Yong-suk was Kim Sul-song’s mother.
Sul-song, 43, is a “very powerful woman” who was a part of the regime’s leadership cohort at a time. As of now, however, it’s not clear if she’s been “put on the side or is working behind the scenes, ” Madden said.
Sul-song once served as an interpreter and close aide to her father. She reportedly managed his traveling logistics until about 2008, Madden said.
Also known as Madam Kim, Kim Kyong-hui is Kim Jong Un’s aunt, and the sister of his late father.
Madden described her as a “very powerful woman.” Now in her early 70 s with a shaky health record, Kyong-hui once was the director of the country’s flight industry — a title that “concealed her real power, ” Madden said.
Madam Kim served as her brother’s closest aide, and was also in charge of the Worker Party’s international affairs department, according to Madden. She once resulted talks with Israel in the 1990 s when the country approached North Korea about buying its nuclear program to protect itself from Iran, Madden said.
Madam Kim, who was once married to Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong Un’s uncle who was executed in 2013 for reportedly planning a military takeover, also served as the executor of Kim Jong Il’s will after he died.
Kim Yo-jong, who is reportedly very close to Madam Kim, often calls her now-retired aunt for advice, Madden said.
‘“People close to her rose in status within the regime, ” he added.
Kim Jong-chol, 35, is Kim Jong Un’s half brother. Unlike his relative, Jong-chol does not have an interest in the country’s politics. Instead, according to Madden, he serves as a contributing novelist to some of North Korea’s state-run publications.
He’s reportedly very interested in music and films and has a well-documented affection for the vocalist Eric Clapton. He also has health issues, according to Madden, though it’s unclear what exactly they are.
Ri Sol-ju is Kim Jong Un’s spouse and serves as the “first lady” of the rogue country.
Sol-ju is not “necessarily a powerful dame, but can influence his[ Kim Jong Un’s] sentiment and actions, ” Madden said, adding that the country is “really positioning her as first lady” though what her role necessitates precisely is still evolving, he said.
“She softens his image, ” Madden said.
Sol-ju’s father is a commander in North Korea’s air force, Madden said, and her wedding to Kim Jong Un was the result of a matchmaking process commissioned by his aunt, Madam Kim.
Additionally, Sol-ju was once a cheerleader and singer.
Though not related to the Kim family, Choe Ryong- hae, who’s reportedly in his late 60 s, was lately promoted to be the director of the country’s organisation and guidance department.
The department, according to Madden, is basically a “glorified human resources agency.” It regulates party members and decides where North Korean citizens work.
Additionally, government departments snoops on the North Korean population, Madden said.
“His status has always been kind of questionable within the Kim family, and he’s had multiple chores. But he’s mild mannered, and a’ yes man, ’” Madden said.
Ryong-hae’s father was a defense minister in the 70 s and 80 s, Madden said, and was also a member of the same military unit as Kim Jong Il. He reportedly has a good relations with Madam Kim.
In the 1990 s, according to Madden, Ryong-hae vanished from public position and was accused of corruption for illegally exporting scrap metal to China — a crime that would have led to his death. But according to Madden, Madam Kim made a “desperate appeal to not kill him.” Ryong-hae was ultimately spared.
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