North Korea expert Rudiger Frank "Kim Jong-un has his own style"
He is being staged like his grandfather
After Kim Jong-un took office, it was noticeable that suddenly people were also talking about failures. Is this really more openness or a misleading of the West?
It is clear that the differences with his father and grandfather are enormous. Kim Jong-un has his own style and he implements it confidently. He is pursuing a clear but distinct goal: He is concerned with improving the standard of living of the North Korean population as the basis for his legitimization of rule; he relies much less on ideology than did his predecessors. He has redirected investments to areas that people perceive – such as infrastructure or even new buildings. There are new initiatives to produce meat with the creation of a vast grassland on previously barren ground. What this will bring, we will see, but at least the initiative is remarkable. Joint ventures and a series of new economic projects, such as 13 new special economic zones, are intended to boost revenues.
Kim Jong-Un – North Korea
We have the Chinese newspaper "People’s Daily" to thank for this week’s slap in the face: Editors of the state-run gazette took a U.S. satirical magazine to task for naming North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un the "Sexiest Man Alive" – and courted the moon-faced dictator with a respectable physique in a picture gallery. Kim Jong-Un is the runt of the litter among contemporary dictators. Since the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011, the well-fed general has ruled as North Korea’s "Supreme Leader". He reportedly went to school in Switzerland and recently married a young woman. What it is called and what it looks like, the tabloid press has not yet been able to finally figure out. In photos he is mostly seen at folk festivals and military parades, sometimes he even smiles. Whether Kim Jong-Un tends to liberalize the impoverished North Korea or rather falls prey to self-dramatization and military saber-rattling like his father, only time will tell.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov – Turkmenistan
The man with the unpronounceable surname must be a brilliant dentist – in any case, his qualifications as the president’s personal physician were enough to be cut short to become his successor. This happened in Turkmenistan in December 2006, when the founder of the republic Saparmyrat Niyazov died. A few weeks later, Berdymukhammedov, now 55, was elected president in sham elections. The new king had to distance himself from his predecessor and former patient, who had himself addressed as ‘Father of all Turkmen’. So he had Niyazov’s golden monument torn down, spinning in the light of the sun. In the meantime, the Turkmen has afforded a museum of himself, and his likeness adorns posters as high as houses all over the country. In terms of personality cult, the dictatorship in the surveillance state of Turkmenistan can hardly be topped.
Teodoro Obiang – Equatorial Guinea
The 70-year-old is hardly known to the world public, yet he is one of the longest-serving autocrats on the globe: With the help of the Soviet Union, the military Obiang came to power in 1979 in a coup in the former Spanish colony, which lies between Gabon and Cameroon on the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, he has held on to power by manipulating elections and occasionally executing alleged coup plotters. Since Equatorial Guinea is Africa’s third-largest oil exporter after Nigeria and Angola, the country is relatively stable politically and economically despite its kleptocratic elite-especially since the West lets Obiang have his way.
Nursultan Nazarbayev – Kazakhstan
The ruler of the Kazakh steppes, which incidentally contain considerable reserves of raw materials, is a difficult case to analyze: Nazarbayev does enjoy support among the Kazakhs, and it is not clear whether his election victories are the result of years of self-dramatization or whether the people really trust their potentate that much. Or maybe Kazakhstan just doesn’t have an alternative policy on offer. What is certain is that Kazakhstan’s wealth from exporting oil and other commodities is more likely to reach its people than some neighboring republics. Nevertheless, Nazarbayev, who has led the former Soviet republic since independence in 1990, allows no dissent: The parliament is dominated by the only presidential party, the media are controlled by the same regime, and when oil workers in the south demonstrated for higher wages a year ago, those in power shot them. There were deaths and injuries.
Paul Kagame – Rwanda
In the West, Rwanda’s sophisticated president enjoys much respect because Kagame successfully stabilized the small country in eastern Africa after the civil war. At least 800 Tutsi were killed in a genocide in 1994.000 people were killed – some of them under the eyes of UN soldiers. Out of shame alone, the West supports Kagame, although he maintains an arguably autocratic style of government: Presidential elections are held to the exclusion of the opposition, and any opposing candidates have always been close to Kagame. The regime is currently supporting the rebellion in resource-rich eastern Congo, where Rwanda has long been alleged to be involved in illegal resource extraction. Under Kagame, the country is on its way to becoming a flawless dictatorship.
King Mswati III. – Swaziland
This man does not even pretend that his rule is somehow legitimized by the people: Mswati Makhosetive stands as king of Swaziland, presiding over one of the world’s last absolutist monarchies. He was 18 years old when he ascended the throne in 1986. There is no parliament in this country of 1.3 million inhabitants, which lies in the southern half of the African continent. Human rights activists rail against traditional polygamy in particular: Mswati III’s father. is said to have fathered more than 600 children with his 120 wives. The reigning king himself has married "only" 13 times – not for love, but by royal command. Some of his ladies flew into exile in front of the potentate to South Africa. Beyond anarchic-polygamous traditions, the corrupt elite in Swaziland lives a thoroughly Western lifestyle: The president loves Mercedes Benz cars and also likes to buy his mistresses a Maybach from time to time.
Islam Karimov – Uzbekistan
Thanks to cotton and silk production, Islamic cultural treasures in Samarkand and Bukhara, and large natural gas deposits, Uzbekistan is one of the richer countries in Central Asia. The population benefits from economic development, although a middle-class economy provides employment. Politically, however, Islam Karimov (here at the side of Russian President Vladimir Putin), an ex-socialist, has been in power since 1991 and runs the country with a hard hand: Opposition figures are persecuted and sometimes even murdered, foreigners are monitored, and ethnic minorities are driven out wherever possible. Since Uzbekistan hosts an important military base for Western troops in Afghanistan, political imbalances in Western capitals often get forgotten.
What else did he do?
He combines this pragmatic approach with a PR policy that is much closer to the people than that of his father. He settles for a woman by his side – the concept of the first lady has not existed like this before. And he lets report evenly also about his malaise. The propagandistic message: Look how hard the leader works for his people, he does not even spare his health. Kim Jong-un has recognized that for North Korea, people are a real asset for the future in which to invest. Accordingly, he introduced another school year, which is explicitly not about ideological education, but about technical and practical training.
Find the best jobs now and
Being notified by e-mail.
Five exciting facts about North Korea
North Korea hardly produces competitive goods. In addition, there is a shortage of foreign currency and thus of investment goods. The infrastructure is dilapidated, numerous industrial plants have not been in operation for years, writes the Foreign Office on its website. However, 13 new special economic zones were created under Kim Jong Un.
The country is organized in a strictly centralized manner and has an intense cult of personality, now centered around three leaders. North Korea was founded in 1948, and formally has constitutional bodies such as a parliament, judiciary and government. However, an overbearing leader with a small circle of confidants wields most of the power.
The media are entirely state-controlled. Most North Koreans have no way to access the Internet, in some cases they don’t even know what it is. Of the nearly 25 million North Koreans, just one million people have cell phones: there is only one mobile operator, which offers a 3G network but no data services.
In early 2014, the United Nations presented a report on crimes against humanity in North Korea. It states: North Korea is a totalitarian state where people deemed politically unreliable are systematically murdered or abused as labor slaves.
Basically there are political relations between North Korea and Germany, but these are also burdened by the sanctions imposed by the EU and the UN. For the former GDR, North Korea was one of the country’s most important partners in the Eastern Bloc.
He is committed to improving living standards, but builds amusement parks – isn’t that a mockery of the people in the countryside who don’t have enough to eat?
This could be seen like this. However, this policy known as "bread and games" is neither new nor a Korean invention, and it has worked many times in history. As for the country, the situation there is less good than in the city, that is obvious. Regarding the different level of living in the countryside, I would also like to remind you of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s theory of two speeds. He has argued that it would be perfectly okay for some people to move up faster; others can then follow all the more easily. Similar arguments are used in North Korea.
Is he closer to his father or his grandfather?
He is clearly more similar to his grandfather – this image is also purposefully reinforced by the North Korean media: he wears the same clothes, the same straw hat that his grandfather already wore. Kim Jong-un is portrayed as a youthful powerful leader who is particularly close to the people and – unlike his father, who usually looked a bit glum and mostly avoided direct contact with people – also enjoys being a leader again.