Who is Kim Jong-un and what does he want from the world: Interview with ex-CIA

Published on May 13, 2020 by

Weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un disappeared from the public eye,… speculation of ill-health, heart surgery, and even the use of a body double have continued to swirl despite his return on state media.
The speculation and guesswork surrounding Kim’s health and status show just how little we know about the North Korean leadership.
Today we are trying to uncover some of the mystery with a U.S. intelligence expert. I’m joined by Dr. Jung H. Pak, SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at the Brookings Institution, who served in senior positions at the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She recently wrote the book “Becoming Kim Jong-un” which was released last month.
What makes intelligence gathering on North Korea so difficult for experts like yourself in the CIA and other intel agencies?
They say there’s no smoke without fire. Kim Jong-un has disappeared from the public eye in the past, and for years there has been speculation of internal unrest. How stable do you think Kim’s grip is over the regime? Do you think there’s any truth to these rumors?
The rumors generated some genuine concern over the future of the regime, should Kim be incapacitated. Do you think this Baekdu bloodline will continue to be compelling ground for leadership beyond Kim Jong-un? And who would you say is his potential successor?
In your book, you explore who Kim Jong-un is and what has shaped the young dictator into who he is today. We’ve seen several sides of him. A ruthless human rights violator who had he own half brother killed and on the flip side, an almost affable statesman mixing with the likes of Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping and he’s also good buddies with former NBA star Dennis Rodman. Who would you say he is moreover, what does he want from the world?
It seems Kim Jong-un has been trying to rebrand himself as a modern leader with his Byungjin policy and active public appearances with his wife. What’s the strategy behind this and what sets Kim Jong-un apart from his father and grandfather in terms of leadership style?
You’ve said Kim is aggressive but he’s not reckless or a madman. What then is his end goal the method to his madness in continuing to test missiles and playing a high-stakes game with the United States rather than hammering out a deal? that said, what kind of approach is needed to negotiate with Kim?
It seems nuclear talks may have to stay on ice as President Trump’s focus is currently on COVID-19 and winning re-election in November. What do you think Kim will do in the months to come? Will he continue to test weapons and will any of them be serious threats?
What kind of role do you see for South Korea in the meantime? There’s been talk of resuming cross-border railway projects. Is the North likely to cooperate?
That’s all we have time for today but it was a pleasure having you on the program: Dr. Jung H. PAK Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of “Becoming Kim Jong-un: A Former CIA Analyst’s Insights into North Korea’s Enigmatic Young Dictator” which is out in bookstores now.

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