A cover story in the latest issue of 看天下 [View, 2011, Vol. 35, pp. 59-62], a national weekly magazine published in Beijing, contains some new information from North Korea as regards the successor, Kim Jong Un.
Mainly this information takes the form of conveying internal rumors favorable to Kim Jong Un which are presently circulating in the DPRK. While the source is rather unclear (listed as “North Korean propaganda materials”), it seems probable that the Chinese reporters are also conveying information given in conversation with North Korean colleagues.
What follows is my loose translation:
Kim Jong Un is an extreme genius in politics, economics, arts, history, and the military. In a little less than two years in Switzerland [note the difference here; foreign media has him there for longer], Kim Jong Un mastered English, French, German and Italian, as well as Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. When this little genius was but three years old, he wrote his grandfather Kim Il Song a poem entitled “Brightly Shining Star of Praise” in perfect Chinese characters.
More recently [here the magazine simply cites ‘reports’ which probably includes Daily NK on the North Pyong’an purge], under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, North Korea has undertaken strenuous anti-corruption measures, arresting 15 of the biggest offenders against the people. Leading up to the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party, Kim Jong Un led a massive purge of more than 150,000 Party members guilty of crimes, then “forgave them” with his great generosity.
He has also paid great attention to the question of people’s comfort, from alcohol to grain and meat. He has unceasingly published lectures on economics [where the lectures are is a mystery] and pledged to ‘bring the national economy, within 3 years, back to the level of the 1960s and 70s, so that everyone can eat rice with meat soup’,” using his grandfather’s slogan.
In the crucial area of military affairs, a person knowledgeable with the November 2010 Yeonpyeong Island bombing [told the magazine] that Kim Jong Un was “a specialist in artillery, and a genius of cannon work in military affairs.” The outside world has analyzed that [the above incident] was part of North Korea’s succession work.
Other media reports have stated that Kim Jong Un education has started in North Korea, and that his portrait is on display at Army bases. In the military, they are told that “the Great General learned to shoot at the age of 3, and by 9 he could hit a bullseye. Besides that, when he was 3 he learned to drive, and by the end of his 8th year, he drove a car 120 kilometers from Pyongyang to many different places.”
Besides that, materials from North Korea stated that when Kim Jong Un was 16, he wrote an thesis on the subject of Kim Il Song’s artful military strategy in the Korean War.
Lest the reader think that the Chinese media simply serves to amplify these claims (which are relayed essentially by the magazine without comment), a great deal of information follows about the coming youth movement within the DPRK’s power structures which, sadly, I haven’t got enough time to relay. But the new elite is primarily graduates of Kim Il Song University and Foreign Languages Institute in Pyongyang.
A few minor points as coda: North Korea is clearly frustratingly vague to many Chinese writers, who lavish it with accordingly vague locutions and Chinese idioms, or chengyu. A list of chengyu or of strategic axioms which are presently being used in reference to the DPRK could be rather revealing.
The article tends to emphasize the successor’s aunt, Kim Kyo-hui, as a new power center rather than her husband, Jang Song-taek.
Chinese analysts may be operating under the general l idea that “China supports stability, Kim Jong Un represents stability, therefore we support Kim Jong Un,” but there is still a fair amount of frank writing about the process of his rise. First, the North Koreans never told their most important ally how to write his name in Chinese. Second, the naval and island provocations of 2010 are allowed to be attributed via speculation to Kim Jong Un so long as the reports are sourced to foreign media.
Kan Tianxia magazine is owned by the Ningxia Media Group; its coverage of the Kim Jong Un elevation at the Party Congress last year was also rather decent.