North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ranks among the world’s youngest heads of state, but has some of its most powerful weapons at his disposal.
Sunday’s test of what appeared to be a powerful, full-fledged thermonuclear bomb, marked yet another watershed in Kim’s relentless drive as leader to turn the North into a credible — and feared — nuclear-armed state.
In the process, he has simply shrugged off international warnings and economic sanctions, as well as bellicose threats from US President Donald Trump of possible military strikes if he persists.
When he took over from his late father Kim Jong-Il nearly six years ago, the younger Kim was in his late 20s, considered untested, vulnerable and likely to be manipulated by senior figures.
But he swiftly proved his mettle in dealing harshly — sometimes brutally — with any sign of dissent, even at the highest levels, while maintaining an aggressively provocative stance with the global community.
In 2013 he had influential uncle and mentor, Jang Song-Thaek, executed for treason, while he was also believed to be behind the dramatic assassination of his exiled half-brother Kim Jong-Nam in Malaysia earlier this year.
– ‘Basketball mad’ –
Kim Jong-Un was born to his father’s third wife, Japan-born ethnic-Korean dancer Ko Yong-Hi, who is believed to have died of breast cancer in 2004.
He was sent to school in Switzerland, where he was looked after by his maternal aunt Ko Yong-Suk and her husband.
School staff and friends, who were reportedly unaware that he was a member of North Korea’s ruling family, remembered him as a shy boy who liked skiing and Hollywood tough guy Jean-Claude Van Damme.
He was also basketball mad, according to Ko, and even slept with a basketball.
– Dynastic succession –
Kim knew from his eighth birthday that he would become North Korea’s leader, but he only entered the public eye in 2008 when his father suffered a stroke and Pyongyang revved up plans for the nation’s second dynastic succession.
By contrast, Kim Jong-Il had been publicly groomed for decades before taking over following the death of his father — founder leader Kim Il-Sung — in 1994.
Despite his inexperience, Kim Jong-Un has shown himself adept at the high-risk strategy of diplomatic brinkmanship practised by his father and grandfather — engineering a series of crises and then sharply driving up the stakes and challenging the international community to respond.
Kim Il-Sung is still widely revered in North Korea, something his grandson has sought to play on by appearing to mimic his hairstyle, dress, mannerisms and public speaking style — even his handwriting.
Full article: Kim Jong-Un: Absolute power — and an H-bomb to wield it (Spacewar)