'Great Successor' Warns Kim Jong Un is a Threat, Not a Joke

Anna Fifield for NPR Morning Edition

By Global Initiatives intern Amanda Lee 


June 11, 2019 

Despite his “cartoon character villain” reputation, Kim Jong Un of North Korea has grown in strength and legitimacy in his seven years of dictatorship. In this episode of NPR’s “Morning Edition” published on June 11, 2019, Asia 21 Young Leader Anna Fifield of The Washington Post discusses how Kim has solidified his rule over the years in her new book, The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.

Fifield describes Kim as a “very shrewd, calculating and ruthless dictator” who had no exposure to leadership before 2011. According to Fifield, the development of a nuclear program served both domestic and international purposes for Kim. He was able to win over powerful generals, instill a sense of nationalism in the North Korean people and deter foreign threats, namely the US. Furthermore, recent summits with China, South Korea, Russia and the US have bolstered Kim’s legitimacy within North Korea as he stood side by side with some of the world’s most powerful leaders, says Fifield. She also notes that his involvement in the global stage allowed Kim to distinguish himself from his father and grandfather.

Kim does not have a clear successor but Fifield argues that he is “probably not doing more than thinking” about continuing the Kim dynasty in order to avoid any potential rival. Indeed, the public removals of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, suggest the lengths to which Kim would go to eliminate his rivals. Instead, Fifield identifies Kim’s health problems as the biggest threat to the regime as the 35-year-old leader has previously been seen using a cane in 2014.


Listen to full episode on the publisher’s site.