North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the bizarre, old-school communist country, recently labeled a state sponsor of terror, has been in our news a lot lately. Little is known about the Hermit Kingdom, save for their doughy dictator, Kim Jong Un, the country’s aggressive nuclear program, and their odd state-sponsored media.
If there’s one thing that’s really difficult, to sum up in a couple of sentences, it’s North Korea. The history of how and why the country is as it is is complicated and fraught with tension. To understand anything about North Korea requires a lot of context so, here’s a brief history on the peculiar, old-world nation and why they’re, like, the worst.
One thing that’s been difficult to explain to people outside of East Asia is how a chubby, petulant leader like Kim Jong Un would come to power and stay in power, complete with fanfare. In an age where we’ve seen countless citizens topple dictators, we wonder why the Kim Dynasty has been able to hang on for so long.
It all starts on Paektu Mountain.
Mount Paektu is an active volcano on the border of the DPRK and China and is the holiest of sites to the North Korean people. According to the propaganda told by the Kim family, Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder fought off the Japanese from his base on Paektu and saved the Korean Peninsula.
It is also told that Paektu is the birthplace of Kim Jong Il, father of the current leader. He was actually born in Russia, but in order to legitimize his succession to his father’s rule, he cultivated and perpetuated the idea of the Paektu Bloodline. For the same reasons that Prince Charles, unfortunately, has to be the one to succeed Queen Elizabeth II, only a Kim may rule North Korea.
It is those reasons that Kim Jong Un had his older brother murdered.
On February 13, 2017, at about 9:00 am, a traveler known only as Kim Chol, 46, arrived at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport for an AirAsia flight to Macau. As the traveler punched in information for his flight, a woman wearing a shirt reading “LOL,” came up from behind and smeared her hands all over his face.
Her hands were covered with an oily, odorless substance.
As the first woman ran to a nearby bathroom to wash her hands of the nerve agent, a second woman approaches Kim and does the same. She too runs to a nearby bathroom to wash her hands of the same material.
Kim rushes to a nearby receptionist and claimed that “someone grabbed him from behind and splashed a liquid on his face.” Kim was rushed to the airport clinic where he was described as being “sweaty, in pain, and unresponsive.” Despite medical professionals best efforts, Kim died while being transferred to a nearby hospital.
Malaysian police quickly arrest 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong and 25-year-old Siti Aisyah in connection with the attack on the traveler. During questioning, Huong claimed that she was instructed by four men to spray a liquid on Kim’s face as part of a reality show prank.
Upon death, authorities searched Kim’s belongings and found four North Korean passports in his name and $120,000 in cash. It was apparent to authorities that this was no ordinary traveler, but Kim Jong Nam, the heir apparent to North Korea.
Huong and Aisyah, along with two other co-conspirators, were charged with the murder of Kim Jong Nam. Both women have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face a possible death penalty. As part of the trial, Huong and Aisyah, escorted by armed guards, toured the scene of their crime.
One must wonder though, what would motivate two women of different nationalities to ambush a stranger in a public space? Why would they smear their hands with a substance they know they immediately have to wash off?
It has everything to do with the Paektu Bloodline.
Like his father before him, Kim Jong Un has continued the perpetuation of the myth of the Paektu Bloodline in order to legitimize his rule. Kim Jong Nam, Un’s eldest half-brother of another mother, had been exiled but maintained a relationship with his father.
What likely put Nam in trouble with his younger half-brother was his friendly relationship with China. If North Korea were ever to implode under Un’s rule, due to his youth and inexperience, China could install Nam as Il’s successor.
And the Paektu Bloodline would make it all legitimate.
While there isn’t any solid connection to the North Korean government, it is widely believed that Aisyah and Huong were positioned as “lizard tails,” that is, expendable assets to be cast off after an operation, by Kim Jong Un himself.
If Nam is out, Un has no one to challenge his rule. The Paektu Bloodline remains intact. As of now, there is no challenge to Un’s grip on North Korea. The military is loyal to him, and his efforts in expanding the country’s nuclear arsenal have proven to his people his strength and domination.
We’ve always looked upon North Korea with a degree of uncertainty. We know that their economy is sunk, but their military is ferocious. We know that their means are slight but their will is determined. And if their current leader is willing to have their own flesh and blood murdered cloak and dagger, we know we’re not dealing an ordinary world leader.
We’re dealing with the heir to the Paektu Bloodline.