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By Mick Krever, CNN
Who controls the Hermit Kingdom?
According to a North Korean defector – a former regime insider who was one of Kim Jong Il’s favorite poet-propagandists – it is not the 31-year-old dictator Kim Jong Un.
“When Kim Jong Il died and Kim Jong Un succeeded him, people saw the transfer of power from father to son,” Jang Jin-Sung told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in London. “What they did not see also was what happened to the apparatus of the totalitarian system that supported the rule of Kim Jong Il.”
That apparatus, Jang said, is the Organization and Guidance Department, or OGD – it was Kim Jong Il’s education as he rose through the ranks, and was full of his university friends.
It is an “old-boy’s network” made into a massive surveillance organization.
“Kim Jong Il had the OGD as his old boys' network,” Jang told Amanpour. “Kim Jong-un may have friends in his Swiss school, but he has no one inside North Korea.”
Jang is the author of a new book, "Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee – A Look Inside North Korea."
“After the execution of Jang Song Thaek [Kim Jong Un’s uncle], he has become an orphan – not just in terms of family connections, but in terms of politics.”
“He's a political orphan.”
Precious little is known about Kim Jong Un, who inherited the leadership of North Korea after his father’s death in 2011.
Since that time, Jang said, Kim Jong Un has had to rely on his father’s “old-boys network” to get anything done.
But because that group does not respect the younger Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, the way it did his father, Kim Jong Un has become nothing more than the symbolic head of North Korea.
“Until the day I met Kim Jong Il,” Jang says, “I truly considered him divine, as someone more holy, like a sage – someone to be revered, someone who was better than us, who was sacrificing his own life for the people.”
So effective was the regime propaganda machine, he told Amanpour, that he did not even believe that Kim the elder used the toilet.
But Jang, a poet, caught the dictator’s eye, and was invited for a private audience with him.
“The man I saw standing in front of me was a man, he was a human being. He was not a holy man; he was not a saint; he was not a god. He was a man just like me, who did use the toilet.”
In propaganda, Kim had used “perfectly composed, flowery language,” Jang said, and was deeply reverential of “the people.”
“But when I met him, he just spoke in slang like in a kind of commanding colloquial, working-class slang, even to his most senior men.”
“And that was shocking to me.”
He even, Jang told Amanpour, wore shoes to boost his height.
Shattering the myth
Once a North Korean has been admitted into the dictator’s inner circle, Jang said – “after having spent more than twenty minutes with him behind closed doors, at his personal request” – the leader’s “divinity” gets transferred onto that person.
“You become immune from all prosecution, all harm. You’re protected by his divinity.”
From that highest perch of North Korean society, Jang could clearly see for the first time all the lies he had been told.
The truth became even starker when he went back to visit his hometown of Sairwon, in the southwest of the country.
“That was when I really witnessed the devastating effects of the famine. That's where I saw the corpses in the station area just piling up and being taken away.”
As many as 3.5 million people are estimated to have died during North Korea's severe famine of the 1990s, according to the South Korean NGO Good Friends Center for Peace, Human Rights, and Refugees. (Official North Korean numbers estimate that 220,000 people died.)
It is also, he told Amanpour, where he saw a public execution.
“It is not classified as a punishment in response to a crime. It's considered a method of moral education, of building up society's standards of morality. So that's why these executions happen in public places, such as market squares, where people watch it.”
“It becomes a theater.”
A decade ago Jang decided to flee the country. Not even his family knew he was planning to leave.
Had he told them, he told Amanpour, their innocence would have been compromised, and they would have been vulnerable to the wrath of the state security service.
Cracking the regime
The most closed country on earth continues to fascinate the world, and among the most discussed questions is if, and how, the brutal regime could fall.
“Currently, there are two classes in North Korea locked in battle with each other,” Jang said.
“One I will call the loyal class. This is the class that is invested, that has a stake in this continuation of the status quo, of oppression and surveillance and control.”
“The other class are the market classes,” he said. “Their livelihoods are not sustained by the system, but actually oppressed by it.”
Earlier this year, a PBS Frontline documentary featured stunning footage of ordinary North Koreans using free enterprise and challenging regime security officers.
North Koreans, the documentary showed, are increasingly exposed to the outside world, through smuggled DVDs and USB sticks containing Western and South Korean movies and TV shows.
“In the past, there was only one thing to belong to, one thing that sustained you, one thing that kept your family going…loyalty to the cult of Kim.”
“But now people have realized finally, after the famine, that it is not loyalty that feeds them. It is money. It is work. It is owning something. It's individual property that feeds one.”
“So loyalty to Kim Il Sung” – Kim Jong Un’s grandfather – “has been trumped by, let's say, the portrait of Washington on a U.S. dollar note.”
Change in North Korea will not come, Jang said, by negotiating with the regime. It will come through knowledge.
“Truth will set North Korea free. The people will set North Korea free. The erosion of control will set North Korea free, not engagement with the regime.”
Why should any of this come as a surprise to anyone? Dictators (i.e. the front faces of terror) are always backed by a shadowy group that supports (and partially controls, and shares) their grip on power. No dictator alone could ever enslave an entire nation; no matter how charismatic, bloodthirsty, or even popular. Nothing new here, either!
You are right, in principle. But some dictators, like Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, 'Franco and Mao are extremely powerful, expecially when they established their own system of terror. Baby Kim formally took over an existing system his grandfather had created. The shadowy group behind him needed a frontman to keep the people at bay. NK is a communist monarchy.
Defector: Shadowy organization, not POPE, controls VATICAN
"NK is a communist monarchy" Come on that gives communism a bad name. North Korea is no more communist than South Korea! It is a dictatorship or a Oligarchy.
wow,truth-holder,i have a pic: oh,look those people, they are living in disaster,they are covered by lies, they have no food ,no water, no rights, no truth, what a pitty! so, why do not save them.why are you just sitting in you comfortable room, drinking you delicious tea, typing you words on you keyboard?! do it do, not say it ,say it, everybody could, just do it! man!
North Korea is hardly communist. No one seems to even know what that word means anymore, anyways.
North Korea is more similar to an extension of the Joseon Dynasty with a ruling/royal family and bureaucrats running the show in a famine-ridden country with no ties to the outside.
Fitting, that North Korea still calls itself "Joseon".
NK calls itself juche
Defector: Shadowy organization, not POPE, controls VATICAN
sir ,please give them hope,do it, koushui war, it means nothing,just like Obama,talking is more important than doing.
Shadowy organizations run the entire world. We are all slaves.
It would be a surprise to most of the people in N. Korea.
Which, of course, is the entire point of the cult of personality set up around the young fellow. Consider the most rabidly loyal adherents to any religion you care to name. Such people do not, as a general rule, rebel against the public face of that religion. North Korea simply created it "artificially" and positioned the young fellow as the object of that mindless devotion. Hence, the "faithful" accept whatever comes out of Big Brother's mouth, and those who question are labeled "heretic" or "infidel". To the inner circle, it is not enough (or too difficult) to set up a system that is intellectually impregnable; they have enslaved their population's hearts and minds.
yes yes, the same words, but,please leave your room, leave your keyboard, we have KEYBOARD POLITICIANS everywhere. do it ,my dear, just saying it means nothing, cursing can not killing, save them,KEYBOARD POLITICIAN.
Shadow government? Tyranny? Sound familiar????
It is not the dollar that Asians look up to, but Gold bars.
Modern mining technics can get you as much gold you want. You want 1 million ouces ? NO PROBLEM A billion ? NO PROBLEM ! You lust for 1 TRILLION ouces ? here you have it ! They can crush an entire mountain in 2 days to milk billions of ouces. That's why the prices is tumbling ! ITS NOT RARE ANYMORE ! HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT ?
This is exactly true about the US dollar not gold. Print a mountain, as much as you want.
"They can crush an entire mountain in 2 days to milk billions of ouces." – that's so much wrong in such a short sentence.
In all of human history we've only dug up around 170,000 tons of the stuff – around 5.4 billion ounces. Even in 2013 we only managed 2,700 tons GLOBALLY, with no country producing more than 420 tons.
As for demolishing an mountain...you've been watching too many superhero flicks.
you can mine 1 trillion tons of gold per hour but that doesnt change the fact that there is a limited supply of it on earth
I'm going to have to ask for your sources, on this one. Producing millions of ounces of gold every year? I don't think so.
This guy is obviously not a North Korean because he's too chubby. I have been reliably informed by CNN in the past the North Koreans are starving.
Don't be stupid, not all of them are fat. If you eat carbohydrates, which most poor people at, such as rice (which is a regular food in North Korea), you will maintain a normal weight. Also, this man has lived for quite some time outside of North Korea, so he has obviously increased his weight. Duh dont be so ignorant and stupid.
I am not ignorant. I get up-to-date information from CNN every day. But what you say does make sense. The starving North Koreans eat rice and get fat. This causes them to wear high heels because they are fat moma's boys.
I agree he's totally wrong. Kin Jong Il actually never uses the toilet.
Probably because he is now Kim Jong Dead
It's OBVIOUS to you that he can't be a North Korean? Shows how well you think.
You seem to have forgotten that he defected to the States ten years ago. Even Americans can get chubby in far less time than that!
You can bet he looks well fed, and that he makes sure he IS well fed. He's probably known hunger – the real thing – in his life somewhere along the line. If you've known real hunger, food gains a huge importance that it does not have for people who've never known a hungry day.
Maybe next time you should LISTEN a little better? Your comment just put a whole omelet on your face. Try to not repeat it.
Read the article. He left North Korea 10 years (a decade) ago!
He also doesn't have one of the official North Korean haircuts. The one he has was outlawed back in 1974 so nobody from North Korea would even know that it existed. They have one of only 7 official haircuts. They used to have about 12.
"This guy is obviously not a North Korean because he's too chubby." Omigod! Then he must be Hungarian!
so he really knows f#$k all, doesnt he? he left 10 years ago. he wasnt even around when Kim Jong Un took control.
How about so real news cnn? nah, forget, switching to bbc
Yeah, I have to agree – between a book he's pushing with content ten years not-new and the fact he actually believed Kim Jong-il did not produce human waste from his bowels and bladder sort of leaves me with a grave concern for both his sense of critical analysis and his motive.
So he knows nothing because he hasn't been home in 10 yrs!? Ridiculous on multiple levels.
Gaining knowledge, gives you power. Curtailing other peoples knowledge, gets you power. This is true, whether talking about North Korea, Russia, China, some little dictatorial state, or the USA.
Well this guy is an idiot himself. To believe that a dude would not need to pee because what, he is divine? If he believed that then he deserved to be whateverhisname's slave, seriously. As to his description of what is happening inside N Korea now, well, I will take it with a grain of salt. Time will tell who is in control and what will happen.
Do you believe Jesus was born of a virgin?
not difficult – the bible clearly states that mary was a virgen/maiden.if a person believes in a almighty creator surly it is possible for him to implant life into a human for it to grow. human doctors do it all the time.
Lots of people believe things that to outsiders seem nuts. Like every religion but your is whacky. Christianity and Islam both are less likely than a leader who is divine.
The guy in the story is also a poet and we might think he is speaking figuratively and did not literally believe it. I'm guessing he is more sophisticated them many who comment here (including myself) and he is speaking metaphorically
You are the idiot or a stupid who do not comprehend and sustain the info they just provided on the article. Hey dummy can't you see they have a huge propaganda machine to brain wash north koreans from their infancy into believing the ruler is a god. And they do it well. !!
Precisely Rodry. most Christians these people have been indoctrinated since birth.
You call him an idiot but did you really understand his metaphor? Reserve the word idiot to yourself.
If he doesn't say this he'd probably be killed or forced to work as a slave.
This is not surprising and I am in full agreement with the stated path to the end of the nightmare that is N. Korea. The best weapons that undermined the Soviet Union were; Levi's, Coca Cola and Rock esp irreverent punk. It is the clamour and desire of the masses that topple disconnected regimes. Bombs and bullets and sanctions are a waste of time. This time the weapons of choice will be satirical you-tube videos and exposure to the lifestyle in the west.
I had posted this here many times: Always when you see the younger Kim we see a group of older men standing in back as if Kim were pushed to the front. Kim always is shown looking away into the distance with these men in back of him. Then look at photos of REAL leaders. They are always facing someone, talking to some one or walking side by side with others never out in front alone.
Have you ever led a group? Every time I have I stand facing them, never facing in the same direction they are facing.
Kim's photos all have this "leader" faint the same direction as the group he leads. It looks very "fake"
I can imagine he has been pushed to the front and the old med are holding a (figurative) gun to his back.
this is the total opposite of what a communist nation state or communism is all about and all the communists and supporters of north Korea who do not realize that are idiots
This guy said nothing useful. Just the same babble that he thinks the western audience loves to hear. People from dictatorship all learned this survival skill to choose what to say. The info from him is of no executable value. If Kim is the orphan, then who is the guardian? Who should we deal with? I think this is just his informed logic plus some wild imagination like any TV fans.
I think you know nothing about the history of korean peninsular and the mordern history of korea.
And I guess you could not understand the stream of korean history since the korean war in 1950~1953 happened by North Korea. You have to view the all incident which NK bring about And ithey mean.
Please take into account many things before doing something. thank sir
It's like that in many ways in many situation. It's the awakening of the mind and the spirit that will give us freedom.
So North Korea is not run by Baby Kim. Fair enough. Under W. the US was not run by the President, but by a shadow group of evangelical fundamentalists, anti-communist and anti-islamist crusaders, and banksters.
This guy's book will still sell massively and make him rich. His poor family members were probably tortured or executed. Normally this is quite an effective way to stop N.Koreas from sneaking away and leaking information – concern for the family they would leave behind.
But not this guy – he is clearly a determined traitor – not so much to N. Korea as to his own family. "preserving their innocence" was such a poor excuse. If his family had any idea he was planning escape, he would not have succeeded because they would know the consequence to themselves once his was gone.
Christiane, why isn't this question asked?
If Kim Jun Un is truly NK army's commander, can he order them to kill the network?
Whoever controls the NK army controls the country. Who is in control of the army?
Probably the head hermit.
I think Kim Jun Un is a prisoner of this regime– nothing more than puppet.
This guy is very believable and likable. I can only hope his family isn't made to suffer, but they probably are and have been. They may not even be alive any more. So I feel very sorry for him, especially because he has no way of EVER knowing. That's GOT to hurt. Real bad.
He speaks clearly and with lucidity. Wouldn't it be great if ALL Koreans, north and south, could learn to be like him? Shoot, it'd be great for ALL people to learn that.
He's right, too. If the upper crust cared nothing for the famine, the people themselves DID. And that's when they learned that this "divine" system cares nothing for them. By letting its own people starve, the regime has issued its own death warrant. The people who saw its effects will NEVER forget it.
While it is usually wrong for other countries to step in, even to fix problems as heinous as those in N. Korea, it is indeed good to know that the PEOPLE of N. Korea will very likely take care of matters for themselves. It'll probably take many more years, but what with the new knowledge they're acquiring through smuggled data and information, it is sure to happen, and they WILL overthrow the regime. That's the best way for it to happen.
What worries me is what would come next. None of these people is fit to live in democracy. It's not their fault, of course. ALL they've ever known was the regime and a few snippets of information smuggled in to them. Even while hating the regime, though, they are still in a culture that is a product of that regime.
This bodes very ill for any prospect of them learning to rule themselves in a civil fashion. Unless they ask for external help – and really MEAN it – they'll probably just devolve into yet another Kim-style dynastic dictatorship.
I want to hope – and to dream, on their behalf – that they will somehow find a way to avoid that fate.
This gentleman is a prime example of just how fine, how wonderful, the N. Koreans COULD be, if only they decided to settle for nothing less.
Sadly Faster in countries like this one dictator is usually overthrown for a new one. Seldom do the leaders of these peoples movements relinquish power, it's just a trade off for a more palatable dictator.
"If there is hope, it lies in the proles" – George Orwell, from "1984"
it sounds like;"everybody should die one day",it's philosophy,man,meaning is nothing,
This makes sense and I had suspected this. You can't just pull an heir to the throne out of nowhere and expect him to wield the same influence as his predecessor. In the past, kings made sure their maturing heirs were visible and making connections to the network of elites who ran the country.
Interesting, but why doesn't he even takes into consideration, that China and Russia are the true masters controlling their 'human experiment of total control' – known as North Korea? Anyhow, the toilet thing is almost funny....
Interesting thought. I see more plausibility in Russia and China being the real masters of King Jong Un. Russia, for instance often sends her children to be educated in North Korea. And North Korea have benn doing the same since the early fifties. This shows some deep familiar links between these three countries ...
may i ask one qustion,how do you know that thing? form what? from where? tell me, please.
If the theory that there is a network of his fathers friends calling the shots, it explains the execution of his uncle, perhaps he was too powerful and also killing him,isolates the boy.
Bogus. Jung-burger is running NK. That's why his belly button is getting bigger.
A shadow group also runs the United States of America. What's the difference? None as far as I can tell.
I am not interested in politics, it rather like a game with winner and loser, with ambition and scheme
DENNIS Should be doing more visit to the north Korea to just to look . crazy
what if her kills rodam whats next ??
madman on US HANDS . Me know you yeah so maybe make date with KIM JONG ILL . beep
More rubbish news dug up like a dragnet on the ocean floor gather old rotted ship wreckage material. CNN is rubbish and will create any fake news to fill it's Website up.
CNN = Comedy News Network
Really, genius? So why are you clicking-through to read the article?
Really? And how long did it take you people to figure this out? It's the same as in Lybia, in Russia and many other countries. D-oh.
thats would nt be a surprise .. who runs the state .. nor mr . obi neither the WH .
obi abd otger staff just employee for those with money n power.
Do not listen to Amanpour subjects because she tends to put words in guests mouth; and injects her own agenda in every discussion. She is one of CNN blow horns with a crusade agenda, anti-muslim; anti-korea, anti Russia...just monkey wearing makeup, a puppet who try 2 brainwashe audience into her CIA bosses ideas...
how the hell is killing amoral lesson surely?
BREAKING NEWS- THIS JUST IN....
KIM JUNG EUN AND EIRC CARTMEN ARE BROTHERS!!!!!
HERE'S THE LINK;
I saw the show and I believe that person wouldn't be allowed to shine Kims shoes.
He has no clue what he's talking about.
The same type of shadow government that backs the NK government backs each and every western government.
Don't kid yourself...
Russia runs North Korea along with China
I agree he is just a figurehead, allowed to clown around to distract observers. Just a symbolic head of North Korea. The power is men in the secret system that parades noisy Kim Jong Un to keep the people and other nations fooled. He probably doesn't even realize it himself.
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