The Weirdest Thing About the North Korea Succession

Same as the old bosses.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/46274125@N00/2921982738/">yeowatzup</a>/Flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

With the death of Kim Jong Il, questions regarding succession and the North Korean power structure are front and center. It’s been nearly three years since Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s third son, was nominated to succeed his father. On Monday, North Korea’s state media referred to Kim Jong Un as the “Great Successor,” and called on the people to “faithfully revere” the 20-something, Swiss-educated heir apparent who would guide them in changing “sadness to strength and courage [to] overcome [the day’s] difficulties.”

Kim Jong Un is the late dictator’s youngest son. For a terse primer on why Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son, is not a shoo-in to become the next Supreme Leader, read the last lines of the AP obituary that ran Sunday night:

His eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, 38, is believed to have fallen out of favor with his father after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001 saying he wanted to visit Disney’s Tokyo resort. His two other sons by another woman, Kim Jong Chul and Kim Jong Un, are in their 20s. Their mother reportedly died several years ago.

Until this incident at what is now Narita International Airport, the older sibling had been expected to take the reins following Kim Jong Il’s death. In the years since the 2001 micro-scandal, Kim Jong Nam has openly admitted that he is “not interested in the politics” of his country, and has immersed himself in a cushy lifestyle with two wives, a mistress, and a few kids stashed away in mainland China. It’s funny to think that this despot-kin-turned-full-time-playboy (those are fairly typical of oppressive regimes) blew his chances at the big title because he wanted to lounge around a Disney tourist trap in Japan. (The faux pas seems even sillier when you factor in just how sensitive North Koreans are about anything involving the Japanese, seeing as how they haven’t even started to get over the whole 35-years-of-brutal-occupation thing.)

So you can sort of thank the combined efforts of Mickey Mouse and 20th-century Japanese imperialism for ensuring the rise to power of Kim Jong Un. And thus a grad-student-aged, binge-drinking, 200-pound Kobe Bryant fan who reportedly has issues with hypertension and diabetes will likely become the next ruler of a nuclear-armed state that has one of the most appalling human rights records in the world today.

The more you learn about North Korea’s totalitarian ruling family, the more they come off like a sick cross between The Godfather, Arrested Development, and certain scenes in Zoolander.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate