Kim Jong Eun, who has been to all intents and purposes confirmed as the hereditary successor to Kim Jong Il after becoming a general and getting elevated to 2nd in command of the Central Military Commission of the Chosun Workers’ Party during this week alone, is the third son of Kim Jong Il and the second born to Kim and Ko Young Hee, Kim’s third wife (deceased, 2004).
The boy was born on January 8th, 1982 in Pyongyang, making him just 28 years old, and has an older brother, Kim Jong Cheol (born September 25th, 1981), and a younger sister, Kim Yeo Jung (born 1987).
Kim famously studied at the International School of Berne in Berne, Switzerland from August, 1998 to fall, 2000 along with his older brother. He is also known to have studied military science at Kim Il Sung National War College, an institution for military officers in the North Korean capital, from 2002 until April, 2007, where he apparently received private lessons from the Department of Artillery for two years. It has been alleged that Kim’s professors gave him lectures from behind glass to stop them seeing his face.
According to some typically overblown domestic material for Kim’s idolization which The Daily NK disclosed in March this year, Kim Jong Eun perfectly personifies the dignity and qualifications of great man, and is a “Mount Baekdu” type of general who faithfully carries out the ideas of the General, his father.
“Youth Captain Kim Jong Eun is a great man who personifies the very modest and easygoing appearance of the Supreme Leader and Great General,” the material opines, adding, “He has a passionate love for soldiers and the people and looking after their lives.”
Also, it asserts impressively, “He is familiar with the Juche idea, military science, Juche political economy, Juche literature and art, and has a wide knowledge of all areas of history, from ancient to modern, economics, the military and culture.”
Kim Jong Eun has long been a favored son. According to Fujimoto Kenji, Kim Jong Il’s former chef who wrote a tell-all book about his years working for the Kim family, “Kim Jong Il said about Kim Jong Cheol, ‘He is not right. He is like a girl’, and often gave him a bad evaluation. On the other hand, his favorite son is Kim Jong Eun.”
“’Kim Jong Eun is an all round sports player and has leadership and an intrepid personality,’” the book claims, adding, “He resembles Kim Jong Il in appearance, shape, and even personality. He has a vigorous personality and… a strong competitive spirit.”
For an example of the two young sons’ characteristics, the book points us to basketball. According to one anecdote, when Kim Jong Cheol’s team and Kim Jong Eun’s team played each other, after the game Kim Jong Cheol simply said “good work” to his teammates, but Kim Jong Eun, upon reflection, demanded of one of his teammates, “Why did you pass in that direction? You should practice more.”
This characteristic is among the main reasons why Kim Jong Eun has emerged as the successor over his two older brothers, Kim Jong Nam, the son born to Kim Jong Il and Sung Hye Rim, and Kim Jong Cheol.
When his mother Ko Young Hee was alive, Kim Jong Eun was referred to, when he was referred to at all, as the “Morning Star General”. After being selected as successor, he became “Captain Kim” and thereafter his work as a vice director in the Guidance Department of the Party was confirmed by South Korean intelligence.
The Guidance Department of the Party is one of the core power bases in North Korea, and a known testing ground for successors; indeed, Kim Jong Il was Director of the Guidance Department of the Party at the time of his selection as successor in 1974. However, compared to Kim Jong Il in 1967, when he was a mere 25-year old section head in the Propaganda and Agitation Department, vice director is a rather grandiose position.
Regardless, having been pinpointed as the probable successor, the idolization process could be observed everywhere in North Korea if one knew where to look.
A song alluding to Kim as the successor first came out in November, 2008, and propaganda material about him was distributed at the same time. He also began accompanying Kim Jong Il on onsite inspections in 2009. In April of 2009, elementary schools began to teach the song, ‘Footsteps’, which praises Kim, and in October of the same year, further lecture materials idolizing him were distributed.
In January of 2010, North Korea designated January 8th, Kim‘s birthday, an official holiday, and the North Korean media began emphasizing the phrase “Morning Star,” which symbolizes him. Also, the Party distributed a written oath, Kim Jong Eun’s song “Footsteps” and one other song to every Party organization at around that time.
Analysis suggesting that the sinking of the Cheonan was intended to build up Kim Jong Eun’s achievements has been put forward in some quarters, though it is unsubstantiated, and in April, on Kim Il Sung’s birthday, Kim Jong Eun is said to have organized a fireworks show in Pyongyang, after which a number of people may have died in a crush on a bridge crossing the Taedong River.
At much the same time, Kim Jong Il allegedly attended a performance event alluding to idolization of Kim Jong Eun, while a plan to produce a Kim Jong Eun stamp was reported in May as well.
In June, Rodong Shinmun began to distinguish “Central Committee of the Party” from “Party Center”, euphemistically indicating Kim Jong Eun as it had done Kim Jong Il many years before, and in August Chosun People’s Army, the eponymously titled organ of the military authorities, published a lengthy poem about him on a full-page spread backed by marching soldiers.
At the regular Arirang performance, which began in the same month, “CNC”, terminology which is supposed to symbolize technological innovation, was introduced to promote the idea that Kim Jong Eun is destined to construct an economically powerful nation.