A Conversation between Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-un

July 10, 2015 7:00 AM

Katy Oh Hassig recently sent us a short video (below) depicting a conversation between Kim Il-sung and his grandson Kim Jong-un. We’re not sure of its exact origins, but the video, which began circulating a few months ago, shows a Kim Il-sung sound-a-like upbraiding his grandson for his lavish lifestyle, purges of his aunt and uncle, Kim Kyong-hui and Jang Song-taek, and reversal of Kim Il-sung era “people-based socialism.” Kim Il-sung attacks Kim Jong-un’s legitimacy denying that he’s part of the true Kim family blood line and merely a fraud destroying the country.

This, of course, could just be another bizarre video about North Korea, but Free North Korea Radio reported (in Korean) that a high ranking North Korean source claims that “the seriousness of the video’s content is disturbing authorities” and “thus far this video is the most toxic of all South Korean videos circulating around North Korea.” It’s hard to say if this claim is true or not, but given Kim Il-sung’s status as the “Eternal President” floating around North Korea like the Holy Ghost, their discomfort is understandable as the video plays on this aspect of the North Korean national mythology. And coming from the founding leader, the core of Kim Jong-un’s legitimacy as the rightful heir of the communist dictatorship in the DPRK, the criticisms are particularly stinging. And Kim Jong-un needs this legitimacy, at least until he can accomplish anything.

The video plays up the idea of Kim Il-sung as the benevolent father of the nation, a true man of the people, whereas Kim Jong-un enjoys a lavish lifestyle, is prone to excess, and is disconnected. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the North Korean people hold more reverence for Kim Il-sung compared to his successors, although Kim Il-sung in reality certainly lived a far from austere lifestyle and was not known for his magnanimity to political opponents. At this point judging who the least bad Kim dictator is might be a good game for academics but what really matters for the regime is if the North Korean people, especially the elites, think Kim Jong-un’s the least bad option for them.


*Correction: an earlier version stated that Chosun Media reported the quote from a high ranking North Korean official. In fact, the original report came from Free North Korea Radio and was then republished by Chosun Media.


Mike Bassett

So back to Pyongyangology101 for a moment. The reason why North Koreans support Kim Jong-un is not because he cares about their individual interests, but because he cares about Juche - the independent survival of the country. Average North Koreans will view this propaganda as "imperialist, and reactionary," and will use it as further evidence of how little the outside world understands them. They too care more about North Korea's survival than their individual survival. That shouldn't be a hard concept for any Republican to understand - especially if they are a member of the Tea Party.

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Kent Boydston Former Research Staff