Kim Jong-un celebrates ten years in power in a country closed in on itself

When he was thrown to the top of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) the day after the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il on December 17, 2011, Kim Jong-un was 27 years old. We could then doubt his ability to control the most monolithic regime on the planet. Officially appointed the previous year as the future ruler, he had no experience of power; he was not even a member of the political bureau of the Labor Party, the political formation of the regime.

The second dynastic succession of the communist world risked being less easy than the previous one, when Kim Jong-un had succeeded in 1994 to his father Kim Il-sun, founder of the DPRK. A military coup, if not the collapse of the regime, was “A matter of weeks or months”, thus argued Victor Cha, former adviser for Asian affairs at the White House. Even if he was not ousted, the “great successor” seemed, at best, to be destined to find himself under the tutelage of a council of regency.

Ten years later, the regime is still there, and Kim Jong-un has not only survived: he has an undisputed authority, haloed at the beginning of 2021 with the title of “Great Leader”, placing him on the same rank as his. ancestors. And he has imposed his presence on the international scene by making his country a nuclear power – even if it is not recognized as such.

With a volley of ballistic missiles and three new atomic tests, the last of which, in 2017, finalized North Korea’s entry into the club of nuclear powers, the DPRK is seen as a direct threat by the United States and their allies. The Security Council (which includes China and Russia) tightened economic sanctions against the country already. Then, after invectives and reciprocal threats of annihilation of Pyongyang and Washington, the storm settled.

Thwarted reconciliation

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (February 2018) in South Korea indeed consecrated the inter-Korean rapprochement and allowed President Moon Jae-in to initiate a dialogue between the United States and the DPRK, which led to a first summit in Singapore (June 2018) between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. The second, organized in Hanoi (February 2019), was cut short: Mr. Kim’s offer to shut down the (dilapidated) Yongbyon nuclear power plant, in exchange for the lifting of UN sanctions, was deemed insufficient. by Washington.

After these two meetings with the President of the United States, sworn enemy of the regime, Kim Jong-un managed to impose his massive figure and his youthful face on the international scene. “Rocket Man”, as Donald Trump nicknamed him, achieved the goal of his predecessors: to force Washington to recognize the DPRK as a power the world must reckon with – and to negotiate.

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Kim Jong-un celebrates ten years in power in a country closed in on itself

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