He’s the world’s most enigmatic and dangerous dictator, cultivating an air of secrecy around himself and never giving interviews. Ruler of the hermit kingdom, he’s now closer than ever to developing nuclear weapons. But what do we really know about Supreme Leader and ’Rocket Man’, Kim Jung Un? Posing as tourists, we travelled to Pyongyang to experience life under his autocracy. We then spoke to people who knew him during his schooling in Switzerland and investigated the murder of his half-brother in Malaysia.
Born the third son, by Kim Jong II’s second wife, Kim Jong-un’s childhood remains somewhat mysterious. When he succeeded his father in 2011, many thought he was too young and weak to take power. They under-estimated him. He soon removed or executed all of the most powerful members of the regime. The most notorious ’elimination’ was the murder of his older half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, in Malaysia. Two women are now facing the death penalty and claim they were tricked by North Korean agents. We spoke to the lawyer of one of with women and hear from Kim Jong Nam’s friends, who confide that he knew he was in danger.
Thousands of miles away, in the Swiss town of Liebefeld, a man remembers the teenaged Kim Jong-un that he went to school with. There, he was registered under a false name and no one had any idea of his real identity. He spoke excellent German and liked Western pop culture.
Back in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un recently declared declared that he wants two million foreigners to visit the country each year. But the experience of American tourist and student, Otto Warmbier, is bound to put many off. After being arrested for stealing a propaganda poster and imprisoned for two years, Warmbier died shortly after being returned to America in a coma. According to rumours, he had also tried access a forbidden floor in the hotel. All over Pyongyang – from the museum of American atrocities to leaders’ statutes in the main square – Kim Jong Un’s propaganda is omnipresent. In a local bookstore, the shelves are filled with his books. At the age of 34 – in addition to his career as leader – Kim Jong-un has apparently already taken the time to author a dozen books.
All over the city, people are uniform, synchronised and smiling. But above all, subservient. At all times, North Korea remains a society under control.
This extraordinary film takes us inside Bureau 39, a legendary organization nestled deep inside the North Korean government. Its aim? To provide Kim Jong-un’s regime with money by any means possible.More info
A travel agency specialising in ‘danger tourism’ regularly organises trips in North Korea for tourists keen to meet ‘the last Soviets’. We join a group of three and travel around the country.More info