Is this the most dangerous man in the world?
This week, North Korean television announced that just such a device had been tested with “complete success”.
The good news came just two days ahead of the 33rd birthday of the country’s leader Kim Jong-Un who, according to the official announcement, was present at the test to oversee things.
Of course he was, for though he is neither a scientist nor a real soldier nothing is beyond the extraordinary capabilities of the man who rejoices in the title of “Supreme Leader”.
True, he does have a degree in physics but since it is from Kim Il-sung University, it is safe to assume that no academic at the seat of learning named after Jong-Un’s grandfather would have dared to fail the grandson.
Dissenters are purged without compunction, even when they are his own relatives
Ditto Jong-Un’s military studies at Kim Il-sung Military University.
He was only 28 when he succeeded his father, Kim Jong-Il in 2011 and many thought him too young and pampered to take on the mantle of leadership.
Jong-Un may be so fat that his own ankles break under his weight (according to South Korean sources), he may also sport possibly the most comical hairstyle known to man, but he has shown himself to be very bit as ruthless as his forebears.
Kim has shown himself to be a ruthless leader
Dissenters are purged without compunction, even when they are his own relatives. He not only had his uncle Jang Sung-taek put to death, but also ordered the execution of other members of Jang’s family.
They included Jang’s sister, brother-in-law and nephew. The aim was to obliterate all evidence of his uncle Jang’s existence, even if meant killing his cousins. Clearly he can also be charming.
After visiting him in 2013, basketball star Dennis Rodman urged President Barack Obama to “pick up the phone and reach out” to the North Korean leader.
In that same year, a United Nations report on human rights in North Korea recommended investigating Jong-Un for alleged crimes against humanity, after more than 10,000 of his own people were reported to have died of starvation.
Some had turned to cannibalism to survive. One informant who spoke to a Japanese news agency claimed that in his village, a man had been executed by firing squad for murdering his own two children to eat them.
South Korean protest against the North Korea dictator
The cult of personality that surrounded his father and grandfather has, if anything, intensified. On his accession, the state’s media hailed him as “a great person born of heaven” while the ruling Workers’ Party vowed “with bleeding hearts” to serve him as Supreme Commander.
A directive went out ordering anyone who happened to have the same name as the new Supreme Leader to change it with immediate effect. One of Jong-Un’s first acts after taking power was to dispose of the four confidants his father had handpicked to act as mentors for him.
All were either demoted or disappeared within the year. Another year later and he had got rid of three defence ministers and four chiefs of the army general staff, replacing them with his own appointees. Jong-Un wanted nothing to remain of his father’s reign.
For many years Jong-Un was not the obvious choice to succeed Kim Jong-Il. He was not the first born son but his two older brothers both blotted their copybooks badly with their father.
The eldest was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport (apparently he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland) while the middle brother was cruelly rejected for being “too girlish” to lead the country.
On the other hand Jong-Un was just like his father, according to Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese sushi chef who was befriended by Kim Jong-Il.
We have to take Fujimoto’s word for it: although Jong-Un’s birthday, January 8, was declared a public holiday, for years the only published photograph of him was a black-and-white snapshot taken when he was 11.
Thanks to the difficulties of transliteration, nonKoreans were not even sure of the heir apparent’s name. Was it Jong-Woon or Jong-Eun? The world finally settled on Jong-Un.
Like his father, he was sent abroad for his schooling, although in his case it was Switzerland rather than communist China and East Germany.
In 1997, he was enrolled into the International School of Berne, located in the suburb of Liebefeld under the pseudonym Un Pak, supposedly the son of the North Korean ambassador. But one day in 2000 Jong-Un revealed the truth to fellow student Joao Micaelo, one of his few friends.
As the two teenagers sat listening to North Korean music, Jong Un suddenly told Micaelo: “I’m not really the ambassador’s son. I’m the president’s son.”
In an interview with an Austrian newspaper, Micaelo further recalled that Jong-Un was mad about basketball and good at art and would while away boring lessons by drawing cartoons.
He was not the most diligent student. He missed 75 days of school in his first year and 105 days in his second. It is hardly surprising then that he failed his exams in natural sciences and only scraped a pass in maths, culture and German.
Experts say there is no way of knowing whether the bomb tested was an H-bomb
Home was a three-storey house with his own cook, private tutor and all the latest video games and consoles which were not even available in Switzerland. He also had a minidisc player on which he listened to music from his homeland.
Occasionally Jong-Un’s sister and brother would appear at his home but neither they nor their supposed parents – who remained invisible – ever went out. It seems Jong-Un had a lonely time of it in Switzerland.
He spoke rudimentary English and almost no German and had only four friends at the school, of whom two were foreigners like him. But his exposure to Western life did not stretch to tolerating satire.
When Sony Pictures released The Interview, a spoof film about journalists hired to assassinate Jong-Un, there were threats against cinemas and Sony’s computer system was hacked.
Without independent verification experts say there is no knowing whether the bomb tested in North Korea this week is in fact an H-bomb.
It could be another device involving uranium or plutonium – as if that were a comfort. As the first leader of North Korea to be born after the country was founded Jong-Un feels he has a special calling to make his mark on the world.
We can only hope he does not mean to do it by bringing about its end.