Swirling Rumors Cast Doubt on Propaganda

Despite increasing the volume of propaganda about Kim Jong Eun, the North Korean authorities have not actually explained anything about his history. Three different eras of Kim’s past are used to paint him as an outstanding military strategist. The first is that he apparently served for over a year in a unit stationed near the Military Demarcation Line, next, that in his early twenties he attended an elite military university in Pyongyang. Later still, he is said to have studied computing at Kim Il Sung University.

But because there is a lack of concrete information about Kim even within North Korea, various claims and rumors about him are rampant. Most are skeptical responses to claims made in military lectures about his past. A source recently outlined three major points of doubt.

▲ Kim Jong Eun served for one year in the Jeonyeon Corps near the MDL

It is said that Kim served as an ordinary soldier in the Jeonyeon Corps, near the ceasefire line with South Korea. His true identity was concealed and he received the same basic training all new recruits undertake. The unit commander and other training officers were unaware of his identity and as such, cut him no slack in his training, but despite this Kim Jong Eun was up to the task and completed his year in service. Whenever he found the going tough his squadron commander supported and encouraged him, and for this Kim felt a debt of gratitude. When he eventually finished his military training he returned the favor by recommending his commander for tenure at a political university.

North Korean citizens are in the main unconvinced of this tale about Kim’s supposed time in the Jeonyeon Corps. According to one such source, “people wonder where a new army recruit would get a body like that of the Kim Jong Eun we see on TV, built like an ox.”

Malnourishment is endemic in the North Korean military, making it highly unlikely that Kim Jong Eun ever underwent the stresses of army life, much less while disguised as an ordinary conscript.

▲Kim Jong Eun graduated from Kim Il Sung Military University as an outstanding gunner

According to this story, Kim Jong Eun graduated from the Artillery School of Kim Il Sung Military University. Military lecture materials say that Kim has amazing proficiency with artillery, and as part of his graduation from college developed an exceptional plan for the unification of the motherland which will come to fruition without issue as long as the people follow his instructions.

The North Korean authorities describe Kim as a genius with artillery, and claim through government propaganda that he commanded a January 2010 shelling across the Northern Limit Line (NLL) into South Korean waters. Conversely, citizens are cynical about this tale, too, with one source saying, “People wonder what he could possibly know about military strategy at the age of 28? Would he even know how to fire a machine gun?”

It appears that most of the cynicism regarding Kim’s expertise as a military strategist stems from his youth. Officers from the National Security Agency note that he did actually attend a military university, but that “The stories about his marksmanship would need to be seen to be believed.”

▲Kim Jong Eun graduated in computer science from Kim Il Sung University

Kim’s aptitude for computers during his time at Kim Il Sung University was so astonishing that none of his peers were able to keep up. Even the fireworks displays on the banks of the Daedong River on February 16th and May 1st last year were said to have been organized using his programming ability..

However, one rumor in North Korea has it that workers setting up the wiring for the fireworks displays at the base of a bridge on the Daedong River were speaking amongst themselves in Chinese. In other words, North Korea actually called upon Chinese fireworks scientists to build up the reputation of Kim Jong Eun.

Whether both the rumors and the countervaling information are impossible to verify, the doubts do appear highly valid. Regardless, whereas it would once have been hard to imagine ordinary North Korean citizens expressing doubts about Kim Jong Eun’s past any more than about his father’s, now, as one defector, Choi, told Daily NK on Friday, “Even legal officials acknowledge that if they apprehended every person who said something they didn’t like there would be no one left. Now they are less keen to get involved, just telling people not to spread anything that is not officially published information.”