Why North Korea's Kim Increases Both his Bulk and Bravado


As unpredictable as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Kim3) has become, two aspects of his personality are easy to predict and measure: his increasing girth and increasing bravado.

CIA psychological profiles were written on Kim 3's father, Kim Jong-il (Kim2), and grandfather, Kim Il-sung (Kim1) and, undoubtedly, now on "the Boy Wonder," who inherited his country's leadership at a much earlier age than they did. While the blood of brutality runs deep in the Kim family's veins, Kim3's seems to run deepest and darkest.

Kim1, founder of the country with help from the Soviets in 1948, took power at age 36. He brutally secured and maintained it, enabling him to wield absolute control until his 1994 death. While managing to balance power between two competitive groups-the Worker's Party and the military-he had a tendency to lean more on the former. The country became a laboratory experiment in mind control with Kim1 both feared and revered by his people. Many still embrace him today as a deity.

Ruling for nearly half a century, Kim1 recognized in his later years the need to designate a successor. By doing so, he was able, upon his death, to achieve something no other communist state has: establish leadership based on bloodline.

Kim2 was 53 when he took power in 1994, initially looking to establish a similar relationship with the party as Kim1 enjoyed. However, resentment among some party leaders over Kim2's bloodline transition to power resulted in his turning to the army, launching his "military-first" policy. It was this policy that gave great impetus to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and provided him with a security blanket against those opposing his own brutal reign.

With Kim2's 2011 death, Kim3 claimed the communist throne at age 28. It was believed, having been educated in the West, Kim3 would prove a "kinder, gentler" leader. He has proven the contrary, becoming worse than either predecessor.

Interestingly, while there was some stability for those given access to the inner circles of Kim1 and Kim2, ensuring their survival, Kim3's approach has been to grant access to that orbit to new members by periodically executing a once-trusted member within it.

Unlike Kim1 and Kim2, who allied themselves with the party and military respectively, Kim3 seems to have no favorite. He has executed members of his inner circle who were in both. And, as demonstrated by the execution of his uncle, not even family ties ensure survival. Earlier this year, his half-brother discovered this, too, when he was assassinatedat a Malaysian airport. Malaysian authorities have traced the killer back to North Korea.

A successful leadership trait often observed is demonstrating submission to the same demands placed upon followers-a time-tested practice obviously ignored north of the Korean Peninsula's DMZ. Nowhere is this practice more noticeably missing than with Kim3's girth expansion.

In a country often plagued by floods and famines resulting in drastic North Korean reductions in conscripts' physical height and weight standards to qualify, Kim3 unabashedly demonstrates there is no shortage of food on his table.

It is not known whether this was a conscientious effort by Kim3 to capture for himself the portly divine image of his late grandfather-an effort also suggested by a haircut he sports very similar to Kim1's-or whether it is simple over-eating. The latter stems from claims "His Rotundness" consumes vast quantities of imported Emmental cheese as his people are told to eat grass or left to filter through cow manure piles for undigested grains of corn. One father reportedly even killed and cannibalized his two children.

Reports suggest that at least 3.5 million people have starved to death since 1995 and another 300,000 North Koreans have fled over the border to China. That is quite telling about a country of only 25 million.

But unprecedented reports are now emerging from the north suggesting Kim 3's nearly 300-pound portrayal of "the Incredible Bulk" is not going over well with his malnourished subjects, especially after being told last year to expect yet another famine. Video on state-controlled television of Kim3 inspecting sides of pork at a pig farm-meat mostly consumed by elites-caused some viewers to share jokes about him, a crime punishable by death. Last month even saw the arrest of soldiers who dared tell such jokes.

One can assume Kim3 does not appreciate "His Royalty" being described in terms suggesting he is the nation's "Pork Belly King."

As far as Kim3's public bravado goes, two motivations may exist.

Domestically, to intimidate his people, Kim3's brutal persona, which includes implementing unique execution methods (using an anti-aircraft gun on two victims in one case), mandates portrayal of a tough guy image.

His bravado on the international front, however, makes one wonder what he has been told by his advisors concerning the country's military capabilities. History shows us that Iraq's Saddam Hussein over-played his cards because he had been misled by advisors telling him only what he wished to hear. It raises the specter of whether Kim3 suffers similar delusions.

Despite Kim3's brutality, South Koreans seem to ignore his brutality against them. Such acts include the 2010 unprovoked torpedoing of the destroyer Cheonan, killing 46. Yet, just yesterday, the South elected a new president who will pursue negotiations with Kim3 as the only path. Instead of "Remember the Cheonan" for the South Koreans, "Forget the Cheonan" is their battle cry.

Meanwhile, we must not be delusional ourselves. Iran's nuclear program feeds off of Pyongyang's, funded in part with the billions of dollars Barack Obama releasedto Tehran under his nuclear deal.

No more despicable human being walks the planet than Kim3. His brutality will only end when military action is taken against him. Nothing could be more rewarding than to be a Predator drone operator who has Kim3 lined up in the camera's sites, firing a missile as he mouths the words, "Say ‘(Emmental) cheese, Kim.'"

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A version of this piece also appeared on http://www.breitbart.com/

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking." He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.

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