Kings of com­mu­nism

The very para­noid supreme North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on how he has been elim­i­nat­ing any­one who might knock him off his throne.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - Words by Jean H Lee Il­lus­tra­tion by ryan Mel­gar

The video be­gins with no fan­fare, no pre­am­ble. A lone fig­ure, a young man in black, sits in front of a stark white back­drop. His hair is tou­sled. He fid­gets. Light streams in from his right, but there is noth­ing to iden­tify where he is or whom he’s with.

He trains his eyes on the cam­era. “I’m from North Korea,” he says in English. To prove it, he holds up a pass­port. Em­bla­zoned on the front is a coat of arms fea­tur­ing Mount Paektu, the sa­cred and still-ac­tive volcano in the far north of the Korean Penin­sula, where the Kims trace an ances­try they claim gives the fam­ily its right to rule.

He looks off to his left, paus­ing to col­lect his thoughts. “My fa­ther has been killed a few days ago.” Though the video was re­leased on March 7 of this year, a month be­fore I trav­elled to Py­ongyang, the ref­er­ence to the death in­di­cates it was filmed weeks ear­lier. His voice is jumpy but com­posed. He does not men­tion which coun­try he’s in now, but he says he’s safe.

There is one clue: an in­signia at the top of the screen, in both English and Korean, that reads “Che­ol­lima Civil De­fence.” A che­ol­lima is a myth­i­cal winged horse ca­pa­ble of fly­ing vast dis­tances. It’s a pop­u­lar name in North Korea for ev­ery­thing from streets to fonts; a statue of one looms over down­town Py­ongyang. It gives the name of the group, which seems to have helped this North Korean flee, a sym­bolic mean­ing that’s at once se­ri­ous and ironic.

He con­cludes by say­ing he hopes his sit­u­a­tion will get bet­ter. The 41-sec­ond video then cuts to black.

The young man’s name is Kim Han Sol. His fa­ther, Kim Jong Nam, was as­sas­si­nated in an air­port in Kuala Lumpur in Fe­bru­ary. The per­son widely be­lieved re­spon­si­ble for is­su­ing the or­der is Kim Jong Nam’s half-brother, the Chair­man of the Work­ers’ Party of Korea, and the Supreme Leader of the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea: Kim Jong Un.

While the World Watches North Korea launch mis­siles, the very para­noid supreme leader, Kim JONG un, has been busy elim­i­nat­ing any­one in his fam­ily Who might KNOCK him off his throne. first, his half-brother Was as­sas­si­nated With a Nerve agent in a malaysian air­port. NOW, his 22-year-old Nephew has Gone into hid­ing out of fear that he’s Next on his un­cle’s hit list.

At 33, Kim Jong Un may be the world’s youngest sit­ting dic­ta­tor. But with his nu­clear bombs and bal­lis­tic mis­siles, he’s al­ready among the most dan­ger­ous. On July Fourth, he gave what he gloated was an In­de­pen­dence Day “gift” to the “Amer­i­can bas­tards”: the suc­cess­ful test launch of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­signed to oblit­er­ate Amer­i­can cities. Once his nu­clear sci­en­tists get a war­head small enough to fit on the Hwa­song-14 mis­sile, he’ll have a weapon ca­pa­ble of wreak­ing unimag­in­able de­struc­tion.

There is no ques­tion how im­por­tant bombs and mis­siles are to the North Kore­ans. But the goal is not to carry out a first strike; with 80,000 US troops across North­east Asia backed by a fleet of nu­clear-pow­ered weaponry, the North Kore­ans know such a move would be sui­cide. Kim Jong Un wants to prove his strength to the peo­ple he leads, to cause enough con­cern to force the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to ac­knowl­edge the DPRK as a nu­clear state, and to get the US to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble—for aid and con­ces­sions, if not a peace treaty to fi­nally, of­fi­cially, end the Korean War.

While Kim stares down his en­e­mies abroad, it’s easy to for­get that he’s also fight­ing a bat­tle from within his own borders: to sur­vive at all costs. Like any au­to­cratic leader, he’s un­der con­stant pres­sure to main­tain or­der and al­le­giance. But his youth and in­ex­pe­ri­ence make stay­ing in power that much more of a chal­lenge, which in turn re­quires ab­so­lute con­trol. Op­po­si­tion must be elim­i­nated. No one is safe, not even his own fam­ily.

Three weeks be­fore his video ap­peared on Youtube, Kim Han Sol was in Ma­cau with his teenage sis­ter, Sol Hui, who’d just grad­u­ated from a nearby Angli­can high school, and his mother, Ri Hye Ky­ong.

Ma­cau was more home to them than Py­ongyang. They’d moved to the for­mer Por­tuguese colony, 40 miles west of Hong Kong and now un­der Chi­nese con­trol, in the early 2000s to seek refuge from North Korea. In Ma­cau, the fam­ily lived un­der the pro­tec­tion of lo­cal po­lice and could move around with rel­a­tive ease. There they were safe.

On Fe­bru­ary 13, Kim Jong Nam was not with them. He

was vis­it­ing Kuala Lumpur, a four-hour plane ride away, us­ing a DPRK pass­port un­der the name Kim Chol—the North Korean equiv­a­lent of John Smith. There are few places in the world where a North Korean ci­ti­zen can travel with­out diplo­matic has­sle. Malaysia is one.

That morn­ing, Kim Jong Nam headed to Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Air­port to catch a flight back to his fam­ily. KLIA2 was bustling with trav­ellers that day, from Euro­pean back­pack­ers in san­dals to Malaysian women in or­nately printed hi­jabs. It was the start of the Lu­nar New Year, and ban­ners fea­tur­ing baby chicks fes­tooned the air­port walls in cel­e­bra­tion of the Year of the Rooster.

What hap­pened next was cap­tured on closed-cir­cuit tele­vi­sion later broad­cast by a Ja­panese TV net­work. Kim Jong Nam, dressed in a T-shirt, jeans, and a sum­mer blazer, strides into the ter­mi­nal. He is alone and has no lug­gage, save for a black back­pack slung over his shoul­der. He stops briefly to check a flight dis­play, then moves to­ward a line of check-in kiosks. A woman in white ap­proaches him from be­hind. There is a brief tus­sle as she reaches around and wipes a cloth across his face. An­other woman squeezes in and swipes his cheeks. Sec­onds later, both slip away, head­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions and dis­ap­pear­ing into the crowd.

Kim lurches to­ward the in­for­ma­tion desk, where he in­ter­rupts an em­ployee and ges­tures fran­ti­cally at his eyes. Po­lice ac­com­pany him to the air­port’s health clinic, though they don’t ap­pear to be in a hurry; Kim walks on his own. But a pho­to­graph taken min­utes later shows him slumped in a chair in the clinic, arms out­stretched, eyes glazed. He suf­fered a seizure, po­lice would later say.

Kim died min­utes later, in a hos­pi­tal-bound am­bu­lance. He was 45. Tox­i­col­ogy re­ports re­vealed that he was poi­soned with the banned nerve agent VX, short for “ven­omous agent X.” The dose was com­posed of two taste­less and odour­less chem­i­cals that are be­nign on their own but deadly once mixed—a pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for the two face swipes. A sin­gle drop can kill within min­utes; the sub­stance can linger for up to half an hour, po­ten­tially ex­pos­ing scores in a crowded space like an air­port ter­mi­nal. De­vel­oped dur­ing the Cold War for mil­i­tary war­fare, it is clas­si­fied by the United Na­tions as a weapon of mass de­struc­tion. Ac­cord­ing to South Korea’s Min­istry of Na­tional De­fence, VX is just one part of DPRK’S chem­i­cal-weapons ar­se­nal, the to­tal size of which they es­ti­mate to be 2,500 to 5,000 met­ric tons.

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