North’s ruling dynasty shows different styles

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North’s ruling dynasty shows different styles

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s leadership style is bellicose, according to a recent study commissioned by the Ministry of Unification, while his father Kim Jong-il had a more artistic leadership style.

The two Kims had very different upbringings, which affected their ruling styles, the study said.

The elder Kim, whose mother Kim Jong-suk died in childbirth, had to walk on eggshells as the son and heir of Kim Il Sung, the founding father of North Korea. In contrast, the 33-year-old leader Kim spent much of his youth outside of the isolated state, enjoying far more independence and a liberal lifestyle.

During his days at Liebefeld School near Bern, Switzerland, he was crazy for the National Basketball Association, wore jeans, Nike trainers and a Chicago Bulls sweatshirt. The young Kim, who was a fierce basketball competitor and hated to lose, never earned good marks in classes.

According to the report, Kim Jong-il was also outgoing but more cautious. His son is known for more daring behavior.

Kim Jong-il had a deep knowledge of plays, paintings and music, and used that knowledge in propaganda work aimed to consolidate the Kim regime’s control of North Korea.

The study underscored that the different leadership styles of father and son translates into different policies toward their people and the outside world.

Regarding the foreign policy, the study said Kim Jong-un has ended any chance of negotiations over his nuclear arsenal and declared North Korea a nuclear state. His father may have been vaguer and left room for talks.

The two men’s style of personnel management were also different. Although Kim Jong-il was unpredictable and kept senior officials off balance, he didn’t completely abandon his key aides.

The 33-year-old leader, however, has shown a drastic and cruel streak with the people around him since he took power in 2012 to maintain a grip on power and remove potential challenges to his authority. Several top military aides were purged and executed, including his uncle Jang Song-thaek, considered the second most powerful man in the country, and Ri Yong-gil, a top general and the third most powerful man.

The study was written by Lee Sang-geun, a researcher at the Ewha Institute of Unification Studies based on 20 books, 60 theses, and foreign reports.

BY KIM HYOUNG-GU, CHUN SU-JIN [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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