Basketball fan, man-friend of US President Donald Trump, but above all: ruthless dictator. Kim Jong-un is the third generation of the Kim clan to rule North Korea. This will probably not change for the time being.
The chubby man with the amazing hairstyle must have been a real jack-of-all-trades in his early youth. As young as three years old, he is said to have hit a light bulb 100 yards away with a pistol. At the age of eight, he allegedly sat at the wheel of a truck at 120 km/h. And at the age of nine, he navigated a speedboat through the waters at a speed of around 200 kilometers per hour.
Like grandfather Kim Il-sung and father Kim Jong-il, North Korea's state propaganda has long since built grandson Kim Jong-un into a super-figure.
Already a "general" as a child
The youngest male scion of the dictatorial dynasty, presumably born in 1984, made his decisive career move ten years ago. On 27. In September 2010, Kim, who liked to be called "general" even as a child, was named a four-star general in the North Korean People's Army. The next day, a specially convened congress of the Workers' Party of Korea paid homage to him.
At the age of just 26, it was clear that the young Kim would succeed his father, who had already been weakening for some time. Then, a little over a year later, the inheritance occurred. Since then, the new ruler and his entourage have produced a series of bizarre images. These include, for example, the performances of Dennis Rodman. The U.S. baseball star traveled several times from the country of the class enemy to the generally hermetically sealed haven of communism.
Sportsman Kim seemed to enjoy the encounters. Alcohol apparently flowed copiously, and Rodman made a memorable toast to his host at the time: "Marshal, your father and grandfather have messed up some. But you, you are trying to change something, and that's why I love you." Changes have indeed occurred and are occurring, as publicist Anna Fifield notes in her excellent biography of "North Korea's Dictator at Close Range," recently published in German.
Construction boom and brutality
The capital Pyongyang experienced a construction boom. Suddenly, a miraculous proliferation of small businesses and markets took place; an estimated 80 percent of the population, Fifield writes, now supplement their livelihoods in this and similar ways. At the same time, the "genius of geniuses" proved to be a stone-cold despot and power politician.
In the gulag system established by his grandfather Kim Il-sung, those who expressed criticism of the state and the "Beloved and Revered Supreme Leader" languished. Kim cleared potential opponents out of the way. The rumor still persists that he had his uncle Jang Song-thaek mauled by dogs. His half-brother Kim Jong-nam fell victim to a poison attack at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
After a temporary thaw, relations with South Korea are again considered frosty. A few days ago, North Korean soldiers shot and killed an employee of South Korea's fisheries ministry near the maritime border between the two countries. In a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Kim wrote that the incident should not have happened, according to media reports. In addition, according to the report, he deeply regretted having disappointed the South Korean president.
The "Sun of Mankind" regularly keeps the world on tenterhooks with missile and nuclear programs. U.S. President Donald Trump reviled him as "Little Rocket Man" – before the two met a total of three times. Concrete results were scarce, but Kim, who until then had been largely isolated politically, was able to gain prestige for himself. "Our meetings, our relationship are out of a fantasy movie," he is said to have flattered the U.S. president's ego.
In recent months, Kim disappeared from the public eye twice for long periods of time. He is said to suffer from gout and heart problems. With a height of 1.73 meters, the ruler now weighs 150 kilos; in contrast to his people, by the way, who have been suffering from malnutrition for years.
A self-sufficient North Korea?
The Juche ideology conceived by the Kims aims at an economically self-sufficient North Korea. In fact, the industrial heart of the Korean peninsula beats in the south. And in the north, barely a third of the country's land can be used for agriculture. There is a lack of machines and warehouses. Severe weather and the onset of climate change repeatedly set in motion a vicious circle of crop failure and hunger.
But the regime remains firmly in the saddle for the time being, says author Anna Fiifield – with the godlike Kims at the helm. It is said about Kim's father Kim Jong-il that he was born on the legendary Mount Paektu, in a wooden hut, while a single star was visible in the sky. A perfect fusion of ancient myths with Christian lore – which once had a certain significance in Pyongyang, the former "Jerusalem of the East".