Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Who is the real Kim Jong-un? Diplomats fret over North Korea's portly new leader and party officials fear a purge

North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, is a frightening unknown quantity in charge of a dangerously militarised state. Even his top officials fear a savage purge of their ranks.

Officially aged 29, but probably only 26 or 27, Kim Jong-un is the youngest man in history with the power to launch a nuclear weapon.

But the man who appears to have smoothly risen to become North Korea's "Supreme Military Commander", the title formally bestowed on him on Friday and confirmed by the ruling politburo yesterday, is a worrying blank to most of the outside world.

Days after his father was laid to rest, Western intelligence agencies are this weekend scrambling to learn more about Kim Jong-un, the man who will decide whether his country remains an impoverished, dangerous and isolated state or whether it begins a difficult process of reform and modernisation.

Inside North Korea, the country's secretive regime has begun honing new propaganda messages about the new leader.

These include the claim that he has promised to bring prosperity back to half-starved North Korea so that in three years' time, "everyone can eat rice with meat soup" - an old slogan of his grandfather's that had been abandoned during the famine that the country has suffered since the 1990s. Read More