The Second-Choice Prince of North Korea
Mad man, Psychotic ruler, or more recently as Donald Trump coined him, “the Rocket Man,” the mysterious leader of North Korea has had a long list of nicknames attributed to him. All such names subscribe to the popular idea that Kim Jong-Un is an impulsive egotistical leader whom lives by a strong authoritarian personality. But is this true? Since North Korea is ruled by a system of government that is entirely dependent on the concentration of absolute power in the hands of one man, it is imperative that we understand the true personality of the man at the top. It must be said that little is known of Kim Jong-Un. North Korea has done a truly magnificent job in concealing the personal history of Kim; after all, we are yet unsure about even his age, let alone his personality. However, gathering what little information we have about the Rocket Man’s youth shows us that his personality is much less authoritative than what most media outlets would have you believe. Rather his true personality shows a nervous man full of self-esteem issues.
Very little is known of the Rocket Man’s youth. Most media outlets tend to focus on the odd fact that he attended a public school in Switzerland for at least some parts of his youth. A lesser-known fact is that Jong-Un, during much of his youth, never expected to be the next leader of North Korea. Instead the original prince of the hermit kingdom was Jong-Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam (the same Jong-Nam that was recently assassinated in Malaysia). While there are varying reports as to why there was a drastic shift of power (some experts argue that when Jong-Nam was caught trying to illegally visit Tokyo Disneyland with a fraudulent passport in 2001, his father gave up on him), it is clear that the Rocket Man believed that he would play no part in North Korean politics until around the age of 17.
Deadly rivalry among brothers fighting to claim the throne is all too common. During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Korea’s last kingdom, it was almost a tradition for princes to either kill off their brothers or send them off to far remote places to live their lives in exile. Such rivalries ultimately came down to the same dynamic: the chosen heir vs. his brothers (all potential heirs). The young Rocket Man would have been deeply conscious that his powerful half-brother would have seen him as a potential threat to his ascendency. Such tension would have played on the mind of the young Kim Jong-Un and would have made him very cautious and fearful of standing out. Some of the interviews from former teachers and classmates of Jong-Un during his stay in Switzerland seem to support this fact. While the interviews vary in their authenticity, a common denominator is that Kim Jong-Un never stood out, and rather the future tyrannical dictator of North Korea, according to a Portuguese classmate, was actually “a fairly quiet guy who never really talked much about his home country or politics.”
(Quote - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/8025015/North-Korea-leadership-My-happy-days-at-school-with-North-Koreas-future-leader.html)
We can reasonably assume that this existential fear would have persisted even after the official transfer of power from his half-brother to Jong-Un. The new heir to the throne would have been under constant fear that those in the country’s elite would question his less-than-traditional prince stature. And there are hints that show that those who had supported Jong-Nam’s ascendency into power were less then pleased with this sudden turnaround (there are unconfirmed rumors that some in the North Korean hierarchy had talks with Chinese officials to reinstate Kim Jong-Nam to the throne). What the Rocket Man did to combat such doubts is all too famous. Starting off with executing his Uncle (one of the most powerful bureaucrats in the country) by shooting him with antiaircraft missiles, Jong-Un embarked on a reign of terror. Kim Jong-Un has most recently finally managed to assassinate his long rival, Jong-Nam and by doing so, the Rocket Man seems to have put the final cherry on his tyrannical cake.
Kim Jong-Un, in many ways epitomizes the fight-or-flight psychology. In his teens, he feared his half-brother who could have easily have eliminated him if he were to stand out as a potential rival. In his early 20s, he feared the discontent of high-ranking officials around him as they shared secret disapproval towards the illegitimate prince. Pushed against the wall, the rocket chose to fight rather than fly. The show of wrath, anger and dictatorial power is most likely an attempt to mask his own insecurities and fears. While time will tell whether the second-choice dictator will ease on his inferiority complex, it should be a warning message to all that the person who holds the keys to half a dozen nuclear warheads is a man full of self-esteem issues.