Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part One: Kim Jong Un and His Family of Dictators

Part One: Kim Jong Un and His Family of Dictators

Tue, 02 Jul 2019 10:00

Part One: Kim Jong Un and His Family of Dictators

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If you could completely remove one phrase from your vocabulary, which phrase would you choose? I don't know. Correct answer. No, I meant I don't know which phrase, and the best way to banish I don't know from your life is by cramming your brain full of stuff you should know. Join your host, Josh and Chuck on the Super Popular podcast packed with fascinating discussions on science, history, pop culture and more episodes that ask, was the lost city of Atlantis Real? I don't know. Is birth order important? I don't know. How does pizza work? Well, I do know. Bit about that see? You can know even more, because stuff you should know has over 1500 immensely interesting episodes for your brain to feast on. So what do you say? I don't want to miss the stuff you should know. Podcast you're learning already. Listen to stuff you should know on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Sisters of the Underground is a podcast about fearless. I'm Doctor Laurie Santos, host of the Happiness Lab podcast. The show that presents the latest science based strategies to help us live happier, more joyful lives. In the next season of the Happiness laugh, we'll explore how to make friends happier parenting strategies and why drinking the world's hottest hot sauce can be fun. Oh my God. Listen to the Happiness lab on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. What's dictating my denizens of a totalitarian regime? This is Robert Evans, hosted behind the ******** the podcast with the worst introductions in the podcasting game. Today we are going to be talking about the Kims, the family that has ruled North Korea for 3/4 of a century. And my guest today is Eli Olsberg, comedian, writer and host of the podcast closure. And Pod is a woman. Eli Sophie is not there to be ashamed at me for my terrible introduction. This week, would you please react with with with shame and horror at my my hackish ways? Is that is that too low key? Just. Oh, that was perfect. That was perfect. That was perfect. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. Yeah. Thanks for being on. How's your what do you what do you what do you think of the the Kims, the Jong UNS and the Jong ILS and the ill songs of it all? Well, you know, what's funny is recently since that climate change report came out, I've gotten so fatalistic about all of it. And for people listening, I'm sure you know I'm talking about. In case you don't, there was like a few climate change reports that came out that like now have guaranteed that by 2050 civilization will be, will like crumble due to climate change. And so I'm like, man, I feel like at this point everyone just going to whatever we thought of them now, which is not necessarily great. The amount of, you know, I mean they're obviously, I don't even know where to start. I'm so ******* jumbled about because I know that's going to be talking about and who I've got thoughts, but overall I'm just like, **** we have 30 years left. What the ****? I don't know whether to look at that with more. Nihilism and just not acknowledge it or be more upset about it. Do you know what I mean? Well, yeah, I mean, we're all in this situation in the modern world where there's there's so many garbage fires all around us that it's like, is it even worth putting out the one next to me because there's this other one that's even bigger? Or like, there's so many garbage fires that, like, you can't even put out just one. It's just like everything around you is is burning that that is a frustration. But. At the same time, I think there's value in learning about these people, especially when they're people who I think have been gotten consistently wrong by sort of mainstream reporting on it. I can say pretty clearly that the Kim family is one of the most requested subjects for an episode of this podcast and has been since I started doing it. And I think the reason so many people want an episode or episodes about the Kim family is because of the kind of stories that you hear about them on the news. These like crazy tales of when. Kim Jong Un would be like, oh, I went golfing for the first time and got eleven holes in one and then quit the sport having mastered it. And like you, you hear these wacky claims and you assume that an episode about these guys is just going to be like 1 wacky fact after the other. And so like, yeah. And I also think that, you know what? It always is a thing that, like kind of the and the reason more people, I think, probably got curious. I don't think it's a coincidence that when the interview came out, I think a lot of people in America were suddenly like. Ohh, this is someone we should be concerned with because it's it's because they're in a movie. And not only that, but they don't want the movie to come out. Yeah, and I think that, uh, we'll be talking about the interview some of this, because it's actually, there's some pretty important stuff there, but I think in general, this is not going to be the episode that people. Who clicked on this excitedly hoping to hear a bunch of wacky North Korea stories are expecting? Because I don't think the Kim family is what most people think they are. And I, I think in particular, Kim Jong-un, the current ruler of North Korea, is a very different person than most people expect. And I find that really interesting. And I think he's an important person to understand because he has a major role in our, our whole international cluster **** at the moment. But yeah, that's what we're going to, we're going to talk about today. Is is the history of the Kim family in as much detail as I can reasonably give it now. Like, one of the problems about covering these particular people is that a huge amount of what we read about in the news about North Korea are lies, and they're often lies about lies. And even like when there's just so much misinformation that that's out there, a lot of it's put out by the regime. Other of its is put out by like sources in South Korea, sources in the United States, but like, actually. Parsing out what's real about the lives of any of the people in the Kim dynasty is really difficult to do. And I've done the best possible, I think, here. But this is going to have, I'll say right now this will have a higher percentage of things that 10 years from now I look at and realize, like, oh, that wound up not being true just because there's so much ******** that gets put out about this family and about what goes on in North Korea. So it's this is this is a tough one. I I yeah. Because, like, I don't think that I think anyone where there's like a dictatorship that where it's that heavy, where it's like, truly it. I mean, if you really think about it, there's not even any kind of like, like, here's a better example and not to. Specifically with like if you going back to movies, if you look to certain cinema, you never hear anything heavy about North Korean cinema. That's how much of a vice is pressing down. You know what I mean? Like you because even within Iran during certain periods Iran you know cinema there still movies managed to get out and have not only did they get out, they had a huge impact. And you that has never happened to my North Korea you know the biggest the the clearest way you can sort of put like you can sort of. Display the differences between like, Iran and North Korea is that I know a **** load of people who live in the United States or U.S. citizens and come from an Iranian background who regularly visit Iran and go right back to see their family. Family. Nobody N Koreans who make it out of North Korea don't get to do that. You don't get to go back into North Korea and then go live your life in the US or wherever. Like, yeah, like that's a really clear. And so that's part of why up until very recently, there's been almost no good. Information that you could get out of the country other than what little came out from, like refugees who fled. A lot of listeners will probably remember how, at the end of May 2019, reputable outlets around the world reported that Kim Jong-un executed several of his envoys to the United States after failing to conclude a nuclear deal with the Trump administration. And then five days later, evidence arose that the people who had been executed were actually alive, and there were pictures of them. So, like, it's it's so much of the time, like what we hear. Winds up not being true. And it's hard to say if it's like where the error came in, if it was North Korea putting out disinformation purposefully or the some other power wanting there to be a disinformation that's going to be like an A running theme in this episode. And it's a running theme. And I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off. I was just going to say that I think that like on top of that, there's also just the misinformation that comes out with everybody trying to break a news story. I mean, that's a small percentage of it, but it's. Bill percentage nonetheless, you know, yeah, numerous stories have been released about Kim Jong-un, who is the current dictator. There have been tales that he got so fat eating Swiss cheese that he can't see his penis, stories that he takes snake venom to help with his erections, and most notoriously, claims that he had his uncle executed by feeding him to starving dogs. And just for an example of how misinformation percolates out, that story about him feeding his uncle to dogs came out of a Chinese satirical news website like a Chinese equivalent of the onion. And then foreign journalists who didn't know what the Chinese site was reported it as fact. And that's not an uncommon thing. So yeah, yeah, you you get a lot of stories like that when you start digging into the old Kims. And so I, I want to lead this episode off by thanking a journalist named Anna Fifield who's the author of a really good new book that I just read called The Great successor. And it's a book mostly about Kim Jong-un and Fifield. What impresses me about her is #1. She's traveled to North Korea a lot of times over the course of more than a decade, but she also, to write this book, traveled all around the world. And talked directly with people who raised Kim Jong-un when he was a kid, people who went to school with him, people who knew him as he was growing up. And so as far as like a verifiable history of this guy, I think she's done the best job that I've come across. And like, that's part of why I was able to do this episode is I found her book and finally felt like I had something solid to grab onto and knew that I wasn't going to be taken in by a bunch of satirical Chinese comedy articles that got misinterpreted as real. And also a big thanks. To the Kim family that will be joining us in 20 minutes. I'm just going. Yeah, yeah. So let's get into this. If I'm going to give people a useful history of the Kim dynasty, I think we have to start with Kim Jong UN's grandfather, Kim Il Sung. On October 14th, 1945, more than 100,000 people filled the streets of downtown Pyongyang to celebrate the liberation of their country from Japanese occupation forces. North Korea was at that point under the protection and governance of the USSR. And on that fateful day, a Soviet general addressed the crowd and introduced them. For someone who would later be the new leader of their country, comrade Kim Il Sung, the North Korean crowd was surprised to see a heavyset young man in his 30s take the podium and address their new nation. People were shocked by his appearance, because Kim I'll sung, like I said, was kind of a a heavy set dude. He looked like a soft, lazy government bureaucrat, which is more or less what he was. But Soviet propaganda up into this point had been sort of hyping him up to the people as a ****** guerrilla fighter. Could spent years battling the Japanese in the mountains and working towards the liberation of his people. According to the South China Morning Post quote, his real name was not Kim I'll sung, but Kim Sung Kai. He was born in 1912 into a Presbyterian family that was comfortably off. His father was a teacher and an elder in at the church. In 1920, like many other Koreans, they moved to Manchuria to escape famine and Japanese rule. His father died in 1926. He attended the UN Middle School in Geelan from 1927 and 1930 when he was arrested for subversion and imprisoned for several months. By 1935 he joined the anti Japanese Guerrilla War. His greatest moment came in June 1937, when his unit of 200 men captured a small Japanese held town in Korea for a few hours. By the end of 1940, the Japanese had killed his fellow commanders and many of his men. Those who remained crossed the Amur River into the Soviet Union, and that's the extent of Kim IL Sung's career as a mountain warrior. So he's billed as the guy who is responsible for orchestrating the campaign to oust the Japanese government, and sort of portrayed as being an equivalent to like. I mean, yeah, but the reality is that he was just kind of a mid level guerrilla leader and by the end of the fighting was just one of the only ones who was left alive. But he he didn't really have much of a career actually fighting the Japanese. Not a coincidence that he comes from privilege, of course. No, no, and not a coincidence like he didn't. He didn't spend much time in North Korea itself until he was 30 and he actually didn't speak the language very well. He spoke Russian better than Korean. The holy so yeah, yeah, yeah. When he gave his first speeches, they were actually written in Korean for him by Soviet speech writers who knew the language better and were able to, like, craft it for him. So it was like a sort of. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's exactly kind of what goes on here. So Kim, after he fled into the Soviet Union but before the Japanese were kicked out of Korea, he spent most of his time on a Russian military base where he was trained as a captain in the Red Army and remained until the end of the war. He had his first son on that Army base, Kim Jong-il, in February of 1941. But that's not the history most N Koreans know. According to North Korean history books, Kim Jong-il was born in February 16th. 1942 and a secret military base on the Korean Mountain Pike 2, which is like a sacred mountain there. And the reason that they changed the date is so that his birth date would be a year that ends in two because his dad was born in a year that ended in two. And they wanted it to be like, yeah, yeah, that's more. That's more corporate posturing. Yeah. Yeah, it's branding. Its branding. Yeah. Yeah. Now as I as I stated, Kimmel Sung had not been a major figure in the Korean Communist Party prior to the country's liberation of Japan. He was like kind of a mid level dude and the story of how he came to rule the country anyway is a typical tale of of Stalin era. Yeah, branding would be a really good way to look at it. He started angling for the job when he was in that Russian military base, but Moscow at first felt he was too ambitious and didn't want to risk giving him the gig. So Stalin and his guys initially backed a dude named Cho. Man sik. Who was a nationalist who'd run a nonviolent reformist movement under the occupation. His big inspirations were Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi. But Cho wasn't interested in being a puppet of the USSR. He wanted North Korea to be an independent country. And so the Soviets started to kind of sour on this guy more and more as the time to release North Korea as an independent nation drew closer. And they realized that he didn't want to be, you know, essentially their their man in Pyongyang. So Kim Il Sung sort of slid into this gap that started to form between Cho and the Russian or the Soviet leadership. And the way he did this was by buying shitloads of liquor and prostitutes for the Soviet generals who were managing North Korea at this point and throwing them big raucous parties, which worked. You know, I mean, he's a big opportunist is what it sounds like, which is the only way you get to a place like that. I don't think there's any way you can get there by being. Any shred of a decent person? No. And it sounds like Cho was too honest about what he wanted for his people and what he thought was best for North Korea. Whereas Kimmel Sung was kind of, I'm going to tell these people whatever they need to hear to to put me in that job and it worked. It worked out great for him. The Soviets had Kim Il Sung deliver a speech test written by Soviet officials. The speech did not go well. Chose Secretary later described him as speaking in a duck like voice. With a haircut like a Chinese waiter, he was said to look like a fat delivery boy from a neighborhood Chinese food stall. Others called him a fraud or a Soviet stooge. So he was not, you know, initially it didn't look like, you know, he he'd succeeded in sort of charming some of the Soviets, but he just had zero charisma. So again, like, it it, it looks like kind of a long shot at the start, but Cho keeps making more and more demands for real independence for North Korea as the the months go on and eventually. Dallan gets fed up with it and has that guy arrested and disappeared into a gulag somewhere. So yeah, yeah, Kim I'll sung gets promoted a number of times in the last few days of the Soviet occupation. And on September 9th, 1948, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was officially founded with Kim Il Sung as its leader. In less than a year he adopted the title great leader and started having statues built in his honor. He rewrote the history book so that his first speech was written down as a tremendous success rather than him looking like an overweight. Later. But by the way, I just want to say that's always funny to me whenever these kinds of takeovers happen and they call it something democratic. Yeah, like that's yeah, that's ridiculous. Yeah, it's the same thing with, like, putting family in your your political organization. Like, yeah, I thought there's some words that always signal that they mean the opposite and like. Yeah, that's that's definitely one of them because, yeah, there was no, there was no democracy at work here. There was no, nobody went to the North Korean people and was like, who do you guys? What should be in charge? And to be super fair, there was not really democracy in South Korea at this point, which is an important thing to note. So North and South Korea had been officially split by the US and the USSR at the end of World War Two. You've probably heard of the 38th parallel, the line that divides the two nations to this day. The line was actually picked by an American Colonel Dean Rusk, and another army officer when they grabbed a National Geographic map and just sort of drew a line in a place that looked good. To them, and because nobody in the Soviet Union really cared that much at the time, they said it was fine. And so, like North Korea and South Korea were created without anybody really thinking about why the border had been drawn where it was. Yeah, yeah. It's a it's like a Sykes pico kind of story where you just have these two powers who, like, they've got so much else on their hands after. Like, they're all focused about, like, splitting up Germany, right? the US and the USSR, like, nobody gives a **** about Korea at this point. So they, like, they just draw, have two guys draw a line on a map and the US says, yeah, that seems good. And the Soviets say, yeah, that seems good. And nobody thinks anymore about it. Like, someone just put on a blindfold and like, all right, just go with the marker, man. And then they were like, that's it, we got it. You know what I mean? Like, it's a weird flip of the coin meant story that I yeah, that's wild. Yeah, yeah. Nobody like that. There's literally like that, that that almost is more planning than they put into it, because at least then somebody would have had to find blindfolds. Like there's some logistical, like necessity in in at least that. So once he gets into power, Kim Il Sung kind of feels shaky in it. #1. There's a lot of other people who are guerrilla leaders during the occupation who aren't big fans of his. He doesn't really have. He's seen as maybe being sort of a Russian. You know, agent at this point, because he owes his power to them, and he feels like he needs more than statues of himself to solidify his rule. He needs a war. And the best way for him to sort of lock himself in as the leader of North Korea for life, he thinks, is to take over South Korea. So he starts pushing Stalin to let him invade South Korea and reunify the peninsula. And, you know, Stalin, at this point, North Korea is essentially under the thumb of both the USSR and China because obviously it shares its big border with China. It was reliant on the Soviet Union for all of its food and aid and resources and whatnot. So like it they couldn't really do anything without the approval of both countries. So Kim Wilson goes to Stalin is like, I want to take over South Korea and Stalin kind of does the whole go ask your mother sort of thing. And it's basically like if mousie dung. Says it's OK then like, well it'll be fine, like then I'll then I'll, I'll sign on to it. So Kim Wilson goes to Mao and he eventually gets both dictators on board. And on June 25th, 1950, the North Korean People's Army invades South Korea. And this is a really successful invasion at that point because the South Korean military did not exist in a super organized way. So within a matter of weeks, they basically conquer everything but one city in South Korea called Busan. So they come very close in the early days of the war to just knocking South Korea out as a country and unifying the Korean Peninsula. Yeah, very, very close. the United States rushed in reinforcements and the Battle of Pusan Perimeter was fought, leading to more than 120,000 casualties on both sides. the United States, you know, continued to send in more and more men, including the 5th Regimental Combat Team, which included my grandfather. And in a series of daring landings and offensives, they pushed the North Korean. Army almost to China. Then China counterattacked and pushed the United States back down past the 38th parallel, and the Korean War turns into a big, ugly **** show. A tremendous number of people died, mostly from bombing campaigns carried out by the United States. Our bombers leveled by some counts 85% of the structures in North Korea. So that's not just 85% of its industry. 85% of its 85% of all buildings in the country are gone, US bomber commanders. Late in the Korean War, complain about not having targets to hit because there's just nothing left in the country. I love that it's a complaint and not a not. They didn't state it as a fact. They're like we're running out of stuff and I'm and I'm bored. I got nothing. I got nothing to drop my bombs on. I'm just bombing nonsense at this point. Yeah, it it was an unspeakably devastating war for the north, and obviously it ended in a essentially a stalemate, not even really peace. North Korea lost at least 10%, and maybe as many as like 20 to 25% of its pre war population in the fighting just absolutely devastating apocalyptic violence and the sheer scale of the devastation that's wrought on North Korea allows Kim Il Sung to not just hang into power, but reinforce his own power. Umm, because #1 just the disasterous losses suffered give him like he's able to pick people who were his enemies in the in the Korean military to blame them for all of the deaths. And like, have those people executed, in purged. And so by the end of the war, North Korea is about as wrecked as a country has ever been. But Kim I'll Sung's power is ******* locked down, so that's where we are when the Korean War ends. There we are. 1953, I believe, yeah. Yeah, because I remember being short but impactful because, you know, obviously I know the US lost a lot of men there. Yeah, we lost about 33,000 or 37,000 dead in that war, which is, you know, only about 20 or so thousand off from the number who died in Vietnam, which lasted more than three times as long. So it's very short. Like for an example of how brutal it was, my grandpa was one of the first soldiers who like one of first. American soldiers who landed in Korea fighting in the war. He was there the whole war. He landed in Korea as a Sergeant and he left as a major because just so many of the guys above him got killed or wounded that they were just promoting anyone like they could to fill like spaces in the leadership they needed. Which isn't a thing that really happens anymore. But yeah, it did back then. So it's it's a it's an ugly war and it's ugliest for North Korea. Like, they get hit by far the hardest and. Our listeners are about to get hit the hardest by some ads for products and services. This is a really bad ad plug or the greatest ad sweat segue in the history of ads. I don't know which one. Let let these ads destroy 85% of the buildings in your heart. I don't know how to. I don't know how to. I should have picked a different point to lead us into ads from. But this is where we are. You can't can't go back now look, you're bombing them with. Capitalism. Yeah, we're bombing them with capitalism by by our beautiful **** pills products. Hey, it's Rick Schwartz, one of your hosts for San Diego Zoo's Amazing Wildlife podcast. In this special episode, we sit down with Doctor Jane Goodall to hear her inspiring thoughts on how we can create a better future for humans, animals and the environment, and find ways of making a living without destroying the environment. We can't save chimps, forests, or anything else, and that becomes very clear when you look at poverty around the world. If you're living in poverty, you can't afford to ask as we can. Did this product harm the environment? Was it cruel to animals? Like was it factory farmed? Is it cheap because of unfair wages paid to people? And so alleviating poverty is tremendously important? Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Danny Shapiro, host of family secrets. I hope you'll join me and my extraordinary guests for this new season of family secrets. Since the pod launched three years ago, I've been asked many times, where do you find your guests? My answer everywhere. And we don't just find them. They find us. They find one another, and perhaps most strikingly, they find you. With over 25 million downloads, the importance of both telling and. Hearing secrets is apparent. It turns out. So many of us can relate, and I am so excited to share 10 astonishing news stories with you. Stories of family secrets that emerge from dark, hidden places, as they so often must. Inside every secret is a truth, and you know what they say. The truth will set us free. Listen and subscribe to family secrets on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. I'm doing Lipa and I'm thrilled to be back for the second season of my podcast, Dua Lipa at your service. I've been hard at work getting ready for you all summer long, so please tune in and join me on this very special adventure. Alongside me and my guests lists and recommendations, the show features conversations with some of my biggest inspirations, working across entertainment, music, politics, activism, and much, much more. For season one, I was joined by icons like Sir Elton John, Megan, the stallion, Riz Ahmed, and Russell Brand. Of service in this moment, can I say things to this human being? It's just a human being like me that was born and is going to die. That will make her more able to navigate the challenges that doubtlessly lie ahead and the challenges that she is dealing with now. And if you like the sound of that, just wait for what we have in store for you with season 2. Listen to do reliever at your service starting Friday 23rd of September on the iHeartRadio App, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. We're back. Oh boy, those, those nothing like some products and services to to. Get you back into talking about the world's most successful and long lived communist regime. The next segue should be. And Speaking of dictatorships, here's our you know. Ah, damn it, you're right. It's right in the name. I'm so frustrated that it took you mentioning that for me to realize there was * **** pills dictator pun. Hit me afterwards and I was like I was a beat too late, man. I can't believe it took me this long to have that idea. Well, that's a shame anyway. So North Korea is super ****** ** at the end of the Korean War. But this winds up actually being sort of a benefit to it in the same way that like Japan, because it was so devastated after World War Two, a bunch in Germany, a bunch of like foreign aid went in and rebuilt all the industry, and they wound up with like brand new factories, brand new everything, and it set them up to become an economic powerhouse. That kind of happens to North Korea. In the wake of the Korean War, China and the USSR fled the country. With resources and they rebuild the national industries and this will surprise most people because we think about North Korea as dirt poor and South Korea as you know, opulence and wealthy. But up until the mid 1970s North Korea had a larger economy and in many ways a higher quality of life than South Korea. That's like the 1st 20 years of Kim IL Sung's reign and there are a number of reasons for this. The short explanation is that North Korea contains almost all of the peninsulas, industrial resources, coal and steel. And fuel all the valuable **** is in the north. The South is traditionally Korea's agricultural heartland, and for those first couple of decades, South Korea was also basically run by a dictatorship. So for a long time after the Korean War, a lot of people who lived in South Korea might have thought, like we made it, we really ****** ** by not going up north like it, that you could. You could have thought for a while that like the people who wound up in the north of the country got a better deal because it seemed that way until the 70s. Then the trend starts to reverse itself very ******* quickly. South Korea industrializes at an incredibly rapid rate, and then their GDP, their quality of life and the the level of actual like they they become a functional democracy as well. And also, I just want to say that one thing that I think people forget is that even within these places there's still an insane class divide. It's just that middle class was a more feasible thing back then. Maybe, but I feel like, I mean obviously and also. Resources to information and and truly knowing what North Korea was like. You were only seeing what was coming in newsreels in front of movies or radio commercials. And you know, however, people got their media back then. But I think that like a lot of those places still, you know, even if people looked like they were living while they were still poor people in those places. Yeah. And that's part of why that that, like, that's part of why people in the North might have been for a chunk of this. Happier than people in the South, because the north had more resources to put into kind of a functional sort of social welfare state than the South did for a chunk of this time. But that again, that starts to really reverse itself in the 70s, but the 1st 20 years or so of Kim IL Sung's reign, they're seen still today by the people who remember them as like the golden years. Of North Korea and those the memory of those years is the cornerstone of of the power that the Kim family wields to this day. And that's a big part of why Kim I'll sung is remembered so fondly even today in North Korea, whereas Kim Jong-il really isn't. And it's a big part of the reason why Kim Jong Un is is like he he ties himself more to his grandpa than his dad. He doesn't primarily Bill himself as the son of Kim Jong-il. He propaganda emphasizes how much he looks like his grandpa. There's even rumors that he got. Bestic surgery to resemble his grandfather. Like he dresses the same like he's very much trying to put on this some still to this day trying to put forward this idea of like, I'm going to bring us back to the good days, you know when my grandpa was in charge. North Korea. Great again. Yeah. Make North Korea great again. He's he's really harkening back to that it's important to understand in order to understand sort of like how things are angled to this day by the the Kim regime in North Korea so starting in the 1970s. Kim Il Sung crafted a policy for his people called Jewish. The basic idea of Jewish is similar to the desire for autarky expressed by Adolf Hitler in the pre war years. It's an ideology that the Korean people should and can be totally independent from the world outside of their borders. They don't need anything from other people. Now Josh is not a really coherent ideology because it it I for one thing ignores the fact that North Korea was from the beginning deeply dependent on primarily food aid. From the USSR and from China, because remember the Korean Peninsula, which had been unified for most of history? The South provides the food, the north has the industrial resources. So on its own, the north can't really grow that much food. So they don't they're they're Jewish is more of a propaganda campaign than. It's an example of like how North Korea actually functions, because for the up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, they're deeply dependent on the country for food aid, and their economy is really dependent on having these other communist countries to sell to. You know, Josh is how Kim Ilseng wants people to think about North Korea and sort of its relationship to the world. That's again like a ******* brand thing there. It is a brand thing, absolutely. And it's crazy because like also I think any country at this point, what's really wild about it is like when people go for this whole concept of independence. I I thankfully the more time goes on, I think people realize that's not the case with really anywhere. Yeah, it true like true independence. But again it was that. Where like I think specifically the, the, I think until about 1980, I'll say and that's like an estimate, but up until that point it was so easy to pull this kind of ******** like where you could you could just like put a buzzword. I mean you could still do that well into the 80s and 90s and it's happening now obviously and like just with memes or phrases people use. But I mean in terms of like implementing these things. On a national scale like that, it was so effortless to just be like, alright, how can we get people to, you know what, whatever the the the keyword is? Yeah, yeah. And that's like, that's part of why he adopts this ideology is, you know, in the mid 70s and into the 80s, the South pulls way ahead of North Korea and suddenly there's no comparing the two countries. And that's a big reason why you want, if you're Kim, I'll sung to emphasize independence. And why we don't need anyone else is because you don't want your people seeing the outside world now that it's become increasingly clear that they're doing better than you. Absolutely. Oh my God. That's the, that's the, like, every man, I don't even know how to articulate this. But like, that is, I think, the key to most, like, it's like trying to keep every country as blindfolded as possible until the blindfold officially comes off that it's essentially like they're making a backup plan for when that finally happens because it's not sustainable. Yeah. And it's, you know, it's normally not sustainable and one of the things that's interesting about North Korea. Is there the only country of its type that has sustained something? Yeah, you're right. Actually, that's so it's still happening. Yeah, it's really. That's the most remarkable thing about this story is that Kim I'll sung number one. He has the goal that all smart dictators have, which is to die peacefully at home. Number two, he has the goal to pass on rule to his son Kim Jong-il, which no other. There's not a single case of another communist leader successfully passing on a rule to their like to the, to their own children, to their air. Like obviously that didn't happen in the USSR. And in fact, like the the idea of having a cult of personality faded in the USSR after Stalin's death. And there were like they they opened up and liberalized in a lot of ways after that. You don't see that. In North Korea, and the reason why is because Kim Jong Un is a masterful does a masterful job of preparing his nation for the idea that there will be no break in continuity between the generations. So I'm going to read a quote from the great successor that talks about sort of how he goes about this process. The 1970 edition of North Korea's Dictionary of Political Terminology stated that hereditary succession is a reactionary custom of exploitative societies that was quietly dropped from future publications. State media started referring to the party center, a phrase used to obliquely refer to Kim Jong-il's activities without explicitly stating his name, and Kim Jong-il began to be promoted up the Workers Party hierarchy. The North's allies picked up on Kimmel Songd plans early on. The East German ambassador to Pyongyang cabled the Foreign Ministry in 1974. To say that N Koreans were being asked to swear loyalty to Kim Jong-il at Workers Party meetings across the country in case something grave might happen to Kim Il Sung. So that starts in the mid 1970s and it only escalates as the 1980s and 1990s are all along. And, you know, one of the other things that happens throughout the 1980s and 1990s is that it becomes increasingly obvious to Kim I'll sung into Kim Jong-il that none of the other Communist family Diet Estes are going to last. And in fact, yeah, like I said, no other Communist state successfully handed down power from Father to son. So it looks like in the 80s and 90s, it looks like there's very long odds on Kim Jong-il actually taking power from his dad or staying in power once he takes it. Most experts suspect that, like. After Kimmel Sung dies, things are going to sort of fall apart, right? Which will not be the last time quote UN quote experts on North Korea predict stuff like this. And they ain't been right yet. So at the 6th Workers Party Congress in Pyongyang in 1980, Kim Jong-il is made the official successor, and like that, is announced to the entire country. He begins to accompany his father along and on the spot guidance tours where the two Kims will show up at farms and factories and tell all of the people there how to do the jobs that they did. Every day, workers are expected to take diligent notes as one career politician and his drunken Playboy son tell them how to forge steel and plow fields, which seems like, and it's like the worst. Episode of undercover. But I was just thinking I was like, this is the most wild thing I've ever heard in my life. Like this is. And truly, you would never even catch a ******* CEO of any company going to a place and being like, OK, this is how you make a latte. And it's. Yeah. It's so interesting to me that they do it this way in North Korea because if you read about, like, Saddam Hussein did the literal opposite where he would, he would, you know, whether or not he actually did it, he made sure that there were stories of him dressing up. Costume and like showing up at farmers houses and factories to like, see how people really thought about things, which, like, that's an old that goes back like 2000 years. And the stories of like Arab rulers is like these Arab khalifs and stuff hiding among the peasantry and trying to see how their lives really are, to learn about how they can govern more justly. And it's the opposite here. And you know what? Like that. But it's a, it's a relatability aspect that I bet some people are just blown away that these guys are coming here and and being, you know, having a sense of utility. Or whatever it is that they're, you know, very, they're like, oh, they're getting down there and they're putting their hands in the mud and and getting dirty and and, you know, they're working and and the fact is they're not. And it's almost the same. Like the way I think of it is the way when, you know, Trump is like, I go to McDonald's. Yeah, you know many people. His fan base must eat that up. No pun intended to be like, Oh my God, he's he goes to the same place as I do. He gets it. So even though he's a billionaire, he understands us. Yeah, that was one of the IT was really frustrating to me to see the way that when he fed those like the the fast food to those kids, how it was handled by the media. Because I I grew up in like the Deep South and I know that played well to a lot of his, to a lot of his base, totally, I mean. It started with my earliest memory of it when I was in college, and even a little after that, in the in the last few years of the Bush Presidency, I remember people still were like, this is a guy you could sit down and at least have a beer with, and I was like, that is ******* crazy that that's the take away in not only that, like when the economy's crumbling, then, like, you know what? Maybe people we should be having beers with shouldn't be running. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well and it's it's one of those things like one of the. The big. Like the there's this emphasis on the the Kims as being in the propaganda, as being perfect and obviously is knowing better than all of their workers. But there's also this emphasis on how hard they work. Like, there's a lot of stories that are put into the propaganda about them passing out from exhaustion and going without sleep for days and like, where, like, that's like the way it was phrased. When Kim Jong Un dies, he, like he worked himself to death in his heart, gave out. So it is it is clearly important for the regime that, like the leaders be seen as being as invested. Physically in the labor of of of the country as like the actual people doing labor. I have a question. Yeah. And I don't know if this came up at any point in any of the things you were doing and this isn't in regards to the interview just in in general which is that is there mention of what the arts are like. I feel like that's actually a play a spot I I realize I've never looked at which is what any because I you know, I referenced that early on. But I do feel like that's usually a reflection of how people perceive things there and obviously there's not a freedom of. Of artistic choice there. Yeah, I mean there's a lot said in the great successor in particular about music in North Korea and about its role and like one like they they have particular songs that they use. Like when they were preparing Kim Jong Un to take power, there was a particular song called Footsteps that they would play that was like the the lyrics and the song were supposed to kind of get people ready for the idea that someone was going to take over from Kim Jong-il. So it is there's not freedom of in in the arts there, but there is a lot of emphasis placed on the arts. It's also worth noting that the Kim. Family themselves. Kim Jong-il and his son and Kim Jong UN's brother, his surviving brother, are all huge Clapton fans. Gigantic. Eric Clapton, ******* love. Eric Clapton, which like you know, he's Eric Clapton. Like, I get it, like, but I honestly think those guys, I, I I've always thought that the people who are usually at the at the top of the food chain like that, who are, who are suppressing art in any way, probably consume most. Or I wouldn't say most because they're there, but. A decent amount of of Western European cinema. All that stuff, and I would venture to say they probably like some of it. Oh, they look, they we'll talk about that a lot. They they're huge fans of it, the whole like, I mean, Kim I'll sung is. I haven't heard anything about what he liked, but Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong Un, big fans of Western cinema, music, art, Big Disneyland guys. Amazing. Yeah, yeah, it's pretty, pretty cool. So in 1991, Kim Jong-il is pronounced the leader of the Korean People's Army. Now, these were the waning days of his father's regime and they were not good years for communism around the world, the Soviet Union. Started falling apart in 1991, and it became increasingly clear that North Korea was about to be standing alone for real. Kim IL Sung's ideas about Jewish and independence would finally be put to the test, and the country did not handle being isolated well. The collapse of the USSR meant North Korea lost one of its major trading partners and its largest source of food. This coincided with a series of mud slides that wiped out huge amounts of the nation's crops and led to mass starvation and even cannibalism among the populace. As many as 2 million people may have died during this. The government's power began to crumble in huge numbers of North Koreans started buying, selling and smuggling in direct contravention of the law. Jong-il and his father found themselves in a precarious position. Kim Jong-un knew that he would die soon, and he had to find a way to guarantee a safe transition of power for his son. But how do you orchestrate that at a time when your people are starving to death in mass? Like that's the that's the big question Jong-un has to answer in, like the early 1990s. And the answer that he picked, at least, was to come up with a lurid fairy tale about his family's origins. So I'm going to quote again from the great successor. To bolster the case for hereditary succession in these challenging circumstances, the regime created a fantastical story about Kim Jong-il's Providence that borrowed heavily from both Korean mythology and Christianity. He would be leader not simply because he had been appointed by his father, but because he had some divine right. His birthplace became not a guerrilla camp, but Mount Pikku, the volcano on North Korea's border with China that has legendary. The Addison Korean culture it is said to be the birth place of Tangun, the mythical half bear, half deity, father of the Korean people. The creature conferred a heavenly origin on the Korean people, and thanks to the story, Kim Jong-il appeared to come from heaven too. North Korea's propagandist didn't stop there. They said that Kim Jong-il was born in a wooden cabin and that a single bright star shone in the sky. At his birth. They stopped short of making the building a Manger or his mother a virgin, but for good measure they added a double rainbow spontaneously appearing over the mountain. The myth of the Holy Pike 2 bloodline. Was created. Wow. What's amazing about that is that is exactly what the parallel of religion here. Obviously that's not treated as mythical in that way, but it it it it's the same difference as like George W Thinking God picked him to be president. Yeah, and it's it's a classical example of the kind of thing that a regime puts out and and pushes when it it feels insecure, like that's why that's that's when the crazy stuff starts to happen. North Korean propaganda, because you don't see as much of that with Kim Il Sung. Like you, you he had a he had a pretty wild cult of personality, but it was kind of in line with Stalin and other leaders of of that era. Whereas it gets just ******* Batty with Kim Jong-il and it gets progressively batter. And it's because Kim Jong-il comes to power as North Korea collapses completely. So like one of the things that happens in the 90s with everyone starving is that like bits and pieces of capitalism. Into the country because the government can't stop. Like people are starving and things are so bad. The government can't stop people from from smuggling in food and setting up rudimentary markets and stuff. And so, like that becomes the thing at this point in time and they just don't have a solid enough grip on power to fight it. So instead they start pushing out ever more lurid and wild propaganda, which is I'm sure how people got to the point of like specifically American selling. I mean they had already done this when when Reagan was in office. But you know, these like anti socialist, they they treated socialism and communism as like the Venn diagram being a complete circle. Yeah, and and I'm sure this was a great paradigm for them of how it's a failure. Yeah, yeah, I mean it. It's one of those things, like it's. There are a number of different ways to look at what's happened in North Korea. One of the best descriptions I've heard of the the way that the state is organized is that it is essentially like the whole state exists to serve. It's it's almost organized like a corporation wherein the whole state exists to serve the Kim family who are in like they're the like the couple 510% of people who are in power who are like the actual stakeholders in the regime. That's that's one way you'll see it framed. Like there's there's not a lot of, like with the Soviet Union and stuff, there's none of what you actually saw called for. And like Marxist theory, where like workers own the means of production, like that does not happen whatsoever in North Korea or in the USSR, really. So it's yeah. What it definitely shows is that when you have a government that, because of its belligerent policies, doesn't trade with the rest of the world, and that government can't grow enough food to feed its people, then those people will do a better job of servicing their own needs than the government can. Which is like the same story that you see out of. It's the same story that you see in the Hurricane Katrina after, like FEMA ****** ** in the first several weeks after, like that. Where it's like the actual people who live there do a better job of taking care of each other than the government. It's actually almost like they took Juche back. Yeah, yeah, it it it it it is. It's like the actual people. Like the lesson that they could take out of that is like, we didn't actually need the regime because the regime like we like. We are capable of being independent if the regime gets out of our way, which is a great, which is a really constant reminder to me of what a thin veil most advertisements propaganda. Like anything I'm talking politics, economics. All of it is between how people are sold things very easily and how it it literally isn't that far off from because that's people talk about like. Solutions being idealistic or not possible, I would say this almost argues that it's much easier. It's just a matter of mobilization or being pushed so far that what happened happened. Yeah. And you, you, you do see like pieces of that in North Korea. It never develops into anything that threatens the stability of the regime itself, but it does alter like the IT never goes back either. Like once these once people get used to the idea of running their own rudimentary markets and selling some of their own crops and like one of the like, you know, a lot of people would get involved in like little businesses where they were like harvest like corn husks. And make corn noodles and stuff and then sell them to other people in towns that they could afford enough food to eat and like once people start doing that and independently servicing their own needs, you can't go back to the way things were beforehand. And that's like that, that that's definitely shown here. It's time for ads. We don't have another great lead in for ads, but it's time for it's time for your juice, everybody. It's time for you to be independent by buying the products and services advertised on this show. Yay. Hey, it's Rick Schwartz, one of your San Diego Zoo's amazing wildlife podcast. In this special episode, we sit down with Doctor Jane Goodall to hear her inspiring thoughts on how we can create a better future for humans, animals and the environment. If we don't help them find ways of making a living without destroying the environment, we can't save chimps, forests or anything else. And that becomes very clear when you look at poverty around the world. If you're living in poverty, you can't afford to ask as we can. Did this product harm the environment? Was it cruel to animals like, was it factory farmed? Is it cheap because of unfair wages paid to people and so alleviating poverty? Is tremendously important. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on Tik T.O.K. You maybe even heard the rumors from your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade, we here at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions, sometimes their answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research with you. For the first time ever in a book format, you can preorder stuff they don't want you to know. Now it's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read or wherever you find your favorite books. My name is Erica Kelly and I am the host and creator of Southern Freight true crime. There are so many people that just have no idea about some injustices in the world, and if you can give a voice to them, you can create change. To be able to do it within podcasting is just such a gift. I believe it was 18 months after I got on with Spreaker that I was making enough that I could quit my day job. It was incredible. I always feel like an ambassador for speaker, but that's because I'm passionate about podcasting. It's really easy to use. I always tell people I am so not tech. Took me 5 minutes to get comfortable with speaker, and when I find a new friend that has an incredible show, I want them to make money. I want them to be able to do what I did. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's break your handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's Get paid to talk about the things you love with spreaker from iheart. We're back and it's time we finally start talking about Kim Jong-un now. The boy who would retroactively be declared the latest member of the Holy Pike 2 bloodline, Kim Jong-un was not born to be the inheritor of the Kim regime. Jong-un came into this world in 1984, appropriately enough. North Korean propagandists, however, later rewrote history to claim that he'd been born in 1982 so it would be in line with Kim IL Sung's real 1912 birthday. Kim Jong-il's falsified 1942 birth, but that would come later because North Korea's current supreme Ruler was born the son of his father's mistress, not the son of his father's official wife. And in fact, Kim I'll sung did not know that Kim Jong-un existed for the first several years of his life because Kim Jong-il kept his mistresses hidden from his dad and also his first kids. Now Kim Jong-un was his father's third son, his first son Kim Jong Nam, who was the guy who got assassinated. In that airport by those women who, like, rubbed him with poison more recently, like he was also the son of one of Kim Jong-il's mistresses. Now, Kim Jong-il never married Kim Jong noms mom or Kim Jong-un's mother, but he did force them to like, divorce their other partners and move in to isolated mansions in Pyongyang. Can I just say this truly is now behind the *******? Yeah, yeah, yeah. We're we're very, very behind him still at this point. Lead up to the name. So Kim's second two sons were with a dancer Co Yonghui. Jong-il moved them into a compound in Pyongyang separate from his other family members. So he has like a couple of different mistresses and kids with each of these mistresses. And he has them all in separate walled compounds that are all around his mansion, which is walled off from the outside world, but also walled off from all of his mistresses and all of his kids homes. And these are they just been hundreds of millions of dollars buying these giant facilities. Which exist to protect both Kim Jong-il and his his lovers and kids from their people, but also to protect Kim from his mistresses and his children and allow him to, like, lock them away in their separate little chunks of the compound if he wants. And they grow up very, very, very isolated at best. They were allowed to play with their cousins occasionally, but usually they were kept alone. His oldest son, Jong Nam, was kept separate from. Kim Jong Un and from his other brother. So, like the brothers don't spend much time together if they don't have friends. Inside their lonely compounds, the separated Jong-il children lived lives of isolated splendor. They had 15 foot gates on beachfront compounds with amusement park rides built into them, the latest televisions and video games, pinball machines, dirt bikes, dune buggies, jet skis, whole buildings were filled with toys for the boys and girls just up to the rafters with Legos and stuff. The latest of of anything coming out of the West was available. They had toy guns that like fired realistic bullets made specifically for them. They also had plenty of real guns. Like any self respecting dictator son Kim Jong Un was given a 45 caliber handgun when he was 11 years old. He was given a specially modified car that he could drive and see above the steering wheel in when he was seven years old. Yeah, yeah, he's he. He grows up like Richie Rich, but he's not allowed to have friends like that's. That's like his closest friend as a child, as far as we know, was a middle-aged Japanese sushi chef named Fujimoto. Not Fujimoto is an interesting dude. He lives in Japan now, and he's like business cards, essentially say, like, ask me if you have questions about the Kim family because he got hired to work for them in the 80s and 90s and was like, his story about it. And he does have a lot of pictures with Kim Jong-un and definitely was around is that Kim Jong-il at a certain point asked him to be his son's playmate since there were never any real kids around. And so Kim Jong-un would listen to Fujimoto's Whitney Houston records. And, like, augle his Air Jordan sneakers and stuff and you know, they would the, the, the. Like, that was his. The closest thing he had to a real friend was this, like kind of weird Japanese dude who took a job in North Korea because it sounded different and was willing to, like, spend 15 years cooking sushi for a dictator. That's his, like, best buddy growing up and also being his, like, entry to pop culture. Yes. And also being his entry to Western culture. Umm, so he he seems like an interesting guy. In interviews with Anna Fifield, Fujimoto recalled a moment at around age 10, when Kim Jong-un got angry at his aunt for calling him Little brother. Jong-un yelled at her. Don't treat me like a child. Fujimoto then suggested he go by the nickname Comrade General instead of Little Brother, which stuck. Everyone started calling him Comrade General after that. So I'm like his grandfather, Fujimoto said. So love the name. Hey, captain. Major like, what is that? That is ridiculous, Comrade General. Well, this is complicated by the fact that he actually is appointed a general as a small child and has a uniform with general stars on it. And you know, when he's walking around with a gun, he's doing it in a military uniform. Because that's just the way it works in a dictatorship. Yeah, that's not even an implication. It's an actual thing. That's amazing. Yeah, it's it's it's pretty great. So Kim Jong-un's birthday parties tended to take place at the Kim family compound in Wonsan, which is essentially North Korea's answer to Hawaii. No children were invited to his parties, and instead the aging leadership cast of North Korea showed up to celebrate with an 8 year old boy, which had to have been super fun. I'm going to guess he didn't have a lot of competition if they played Goldeneye, probably, probably ******* kicked kicked their ***** as odd job. I wonder if I wonder if the other, if he played anyone, if they were allowed to win or if they had to lose. Yeah, I feel like if you pick if like, especially if you pick odd job playing Goldeneye with Kim Jong-un and start like karate chopping him to death like you don't last much longer after that. Like, yeah, that's not a good, good plan for you. So Kim Jong-un was known as a child. The loving machinery. He was particularly fascinated with model planes. According to the great successor, even when he was eight or nine and still in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un would stay up all night doing experiments with his machinery and insisting on speaking to some expert or another. Even in the wee hours of the morning, if he couldn't figure things out by himself when he had questions or when something didn't function well, he would call for a nautical engineer to come and explain it to him, no matter how late it was, his aunt told me. O. He's like in some ways, like, that sounds like it could. You could expect someone to grow up with a lot of talents doing that, like if you're actually have an interest in engineering and you can just force engineers to wake up in the middle of the night and explain things to you, like. Sure. I mean, let's see that. Yeah. Any any like and that's the, here's the thing for kids, that's not that uncommon either whether you're good at it or not or what your fascination is with them. So I, I wonder, it's, it's probably one of the only things like, let's say you were talking about earlier how like 10 years from now, how much of this might still track that part, probably still does. It sounds like an innocuous but enough thing in regards to what someone that age would be into, as opposed to wearing a general's uniform, which also obviously really happened. Yeah, and holding guns. I mean, if if you when I was seven years old or 11 years old, you'd given me a 45 and and made me a general, I would have. I would have probably invaded a couple of countries and it would have gone really badly. Yeah. Yeah. So I guess we got to give the kid credit for some, some restraint there, or at least his dad now. Basketball is huge in Korea, in both Koreas, both S and North Korea. Big ******* basketball fans. And it's something of a trope in Korean culture for mothers to tell their children to play basketball so they will grow up taller. That's a common myth. So Kim Jong-il was just like 5 foot two, very, very short, dude. Kim Jong-un grew up to be like 5 foot seven. So, you know, you could argue that maybe, maybe all the basketball he played as a kid helped him, in fact grow up a little bit taller. It's it's definite. One of the things we know to a point of certainty about Kim Jong-un is that for basically all of his life, he has been absolutely obsessed with basketball. Children of rich party apparatchiks would be bussed in to play games with him. Fujimoto observed he had the ability to make good judgments with solid reasoning. He knew when to praise and went to criticize. Fujimoto noted that he seemed to particularly enjoy critiquing players, especially due to the fear this provoked in them he learned from an early age. You enjoy exercising power over people. One story Fujimoto tells is of another time is of a time he took Kim Jong-un and one of his brothers out fishing for sea bass. Every time he, Fujimoto, would catch a bass pre team, Kim Jong-un would grab the rod and shout. I caught it. So we're getting an idea for the kind of personality that develops from a kid who grows up in this. Yeah, yeah, that's that's he. He got the the dictatorship crash course early on. Yeah, yeah, he grows up very comfortable with acting that way. On July 8th, 1994, Kim Ilseng heart finally gave out after decades of hard living in a harder dictating Kim Jong-un was ten years old and still technically a secret to the people of North Korea at the time. There were certainly aware of his father, Kim Jong-il, though, because he'd been the promised successor for many years. Kim Il Sung was hailed by the Korean Central News Agency as a man who had turned North Korea from a land where age-old backwardness and poverty had prevailed into a powerful socialist country. Independent, self supporting and self reliant. The rest of the 1990s increasingly put the lie to this claim, as North Korea's terrible famine hit its height not long after Kim Jong-il took power. Now I can remember when this like in the early 2000s when I was just starting off in my career writing for cracked, that we had a number of popular articles run that referenced all the crazy claims about Kim Jong-il. And there was a period of years there, especially in the early 2000s, where he was the western world's like, favorite punching bag team. America World Police is probably like the clearest example. Yeah, that's the biggest example of this. And there were a lot of really crazy lies told about Kim Jong-il, especially as the famine subsides in the early 2000s and things start to recover. And there's, you know, you hear stories about he, he wrote perfect operas. He'd play a single perfect game of golf and then quit the game forever. There was propaganda that said he was a world fashion icon that said he invented the hamburger, that said he'd never used a toilet. And of course that would claim he could control the weather. These colorful tales made North Korea's dictator fun to write about, but the lies came from a place of desperation. Things were bad in North Korea for most of this. And the regular people knew it. Kim Jong-il's insane propaganda was the result of a desperate regime with very little to really brag about. His father's difficult early years were mostly lost on Kim Jong-un because during this period of time he continued to live in armed compounds, eating sushi prepared by a private chef flying to Paris to see Euro Disney and while his citizens were eating grass and pages. And books to quell their hunger pains, the heir apparent got to enjoy the finest buffets Europe had to offer. He played in rooms full of Legos in his private palace. He and the other Kims ain't only a special rice produced for them and dedicated farms. Female harvesters would select each grain by hand, making sure they were all perfect and the same size. So this is his his childhood while starvation is going on. It's really important to keep that in mind, of course. Yeah, and I think people, I don't know why this can still be a. A mystery to some people. But like you know people look back on certain things like how could people let this happen or how could people sit idly by. And all you have to do is look around now to a lot of what has happened since Trump's been in office, which is that like, you know, all of the IT it's it's very easy for it to happen and and it's very hard for people to there's overthrowing that in any capacity. I guess what I'm getting at more is the parts of the propaganda that are, like, you know, this guy never had to go to the bathroom and he invented the hamburger. You know, I I'm of course, most people didn't believe it, but also it's not going to change anything in the sense that people aren't going to suddenly be like, that's a crock of ****. Let's we need someone else here, you know? Yeah, yeah. There's just there's just not room for that in the society. And part of it's just because, like, the media is so controlled that, like, even if people aren't buying. The propaganda. There's no room for anything else to enter into like public media. And if you push it enough times, just the repetition of it, people are going to be are going to wear down to it in any, right? We'll talk a little bit more about that later, too. So Kim Jong-il's infamous propaganda campaigns were, yeah, more of a holding strategy than anything else. While he shifted his nation to a military first domestic policy, some people might consider it odd to focus your money and attention on more soldiers and gaining nuclear missiles while people are eating each other. But Kim Jong-il knew what he was doing. The military kept him in power. As the 1990s rolled along, Kim Jong Nam, Jong UN's older half brother, grew increasingly estranged from his father and from the levers of power. In North Korea, he was disgraced when he and his mother were caught with fake passports trying to enter Japan in order to see Tokyo Disneyland. The fake name he traveled under Pyongyang translated to Fat Bear, a fact which made him a laughingstock of world media. Yeah, very funny. Kim Jong Nam's fading star also came from the fact that his mother spent most of her time in Russia rather than sucking up to Kim Jong-il, according to the Great successor. Kim Jong-un's mother, on the other hand, became a constant presence in Kim Jong-un's life as his favorite consort. He planted the seeds of change from behind the scenes. Her influence came to be seen everywhere, such as in the way Donald Duck and Tom and Jerry cartoon suddenly appeared on television, dubbed into Korean, right around the time her children would have been watching them. Around the same time, Kim Jong-il had flown into a rage when he discovered that Kim Jong Nam, who was then about 20, had been going out and drinking in Pyongyang for disobeying his orders. Kim Jong-il put Kim Jong Nam's household under arrest for a month, cutting off their food supplies and making them clean up after themselves. So that's that's the kind of punishment you get. The son of a dictator was just gonna say you gotta clean your own house. Yeah, the humanity. Where is it? Yeah, now, Kim Jong-un famously spent most of his adolescence in Bern, Switzerland. To be specific, he and his older brother Kim Jong Chul, his other older brother, lived in the suburb of Liefield with their maternal aunt and uncle. They lived under assumed names and no one but high-ranking Swiss security services realized who they truly were. To their credit, the Swiss intelligence agencies like knew that the children of like, North Korea's dictator were there, but had a policy of not really keeping tabs on them because they were kids and they felt like they. They deserve a chance to be children, which I think is admirable. Yeah. Now, for the most part, it seems like Kim Jong Un and his older brother were allowed to live the closest approximation of a normal life possible for the children of dictators, at least during the times when they were in Switzerland years later, Kim Jong-un's aunt, Koi Young Sook recalled, we lived in a normal home and acted like a normal family. I acted like their mother. Their friends would come over and I would make them snacks. It was a very normal childhood, with birthday parties and gifts and Swiss kids coming over to play. So. Huh. That's that's. Yeah, yeah. There, there, there was a brief period where, like, he almost had a normal middle class upbringing like you, you see, you see like glimmers of that in in this kid's life like that. And it's hard to tell whether it was, like pushed upon him or that's what they were striving for. You know what I mean? He's like, they were striving for him to get a good education because his mom would regularly visit and, like, chastise him for not getting better grades. And they just knew that he wasn't going to be able to get a good enough education. Umm in North Korea because, like, for one thing, it's kind of hard to get a good education when the teachers are afraid you might have them shipped to gulags, right? Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So Kim Jong Un maintained his love of model airplanes while he lived in Switzerland. He went out with his aunt and uncle on vacations to the French Riviera and to Euro Disney. Like every child of the 1990s. He and his. Yeah, yeah. He and his older brother developed an intense and abiding love for the action films of Jean-Claude Van Damme, which, you know, of course, now we're getting. Early into the yeah, what I'm very curious about, because the 1990s in particular, specifically for movies, is about when it became, I guess, when even like indie films kind of had an assembly line model almost, you know what I mean? Yeah, and it's one of the things that that's interesting to me here is that, yeah, he was also a huge fan of Michael Jackson. Like he really seems to be like a pretty normal. Like I I think most of the people listening who grew up in the 90s could have had long and engaged conversations with Kim Jong-un as kids about like, you know, the Street Fighter movie or yeah, I saw every single sudden impact, Lionheart, Universal soldier, hard target, those are all his big early 90s movies right there. And Kim Jong-un's older brother, Kim Jong Chul even included John Claude Van Damme in an essay he wrote at school. And we have a quote from it if I had my ideal world, I would not allow. Weapons and atom bombs anymore? I would destroy all terrorists with the Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Everybody would be happy. No more war, no more dying, no more crying. So that's uplifting. I wonder what they thought of the I don't know if you remember this. When Universal Soldier came out at the Cannes Film Fest, I believe it was at the Cannes Film Festival, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren had a shoving match. I didn't know that. Yeah, it was. It was. But it turned out it was a publicity stunt for the movie. But I picture them being like, oh, man, he could have owned Dolph Lundgren. Old man. He could have really? Which is funny, because Dolph Lundgren, I don't know most people. He has like a PhD and I think like chemistry. Yeah, he's a genius. And also a a living mountain. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dolph Lundgren is a is a terrifying fellow. Yeah. I I just, I that's very fascinating because they those guys had a very specific demographic they appealed to and it it was to people that were like these like boys of a certain age. Yeah. Yeah. That that's like John Claude Van Damme is like the action figure that nobody grows up to be but that like, every kid wanted to be growing up in the 90s. Yeah. Yeah. And I'm going to guess that Kim Jong Un from everything we know. Probably felt the same way that y'all you did watching Universal soldier. Yeah, they we all. We all like. Art touches us all. 8 years old, I think, is that movie came out. I think I was around 8 years old, my 7:00. And I remember there was a cheap dollar theater and I went, that's where I saw it. But I what, you know, specifically at that age, you're going to think, like, yeah, guns don't get the job done. John Claude Van Damme does. Yeah, yeah, yeah. What are guns going to do? I've watched John Claude Van Damme, like, spin kick 30 people with machine guns to death. Like, clearly the guns don't do the trick. Yeah. You got to love that. Foreign policy advice now. Kim Jong-un was at best. A mediocre student, his real mother visited regularly to press him to focus more and study harder. But being the heir to a dictatorship, there weren't really any punishments for bad behavior at school. John's teachers obviously could not meet with his parents. Instead, that role was played by a rotating cast of random N Koreans who worked in the country's diplomatic corps. The justification given was that the boy's real parents did not speak German. As a foreigner who did not speak the local language, Kim Jong Un experienced middle school and high school as an outsider, for one thing, he wore nothing but track suits. Genes were too American and forbidden for even him to wear. He was, however, allowed to wear the latest Air Jordans. Needless to say, he stood out visually, as I think any kid wearing nothing but track suits and new Air Jordans would have in middle school. This is so fascinating because I I wonder to this day if he, because you know the the basketball obsession obviously is still on an ongoing thing. So I wonder if he's like a full on sneaker head and if he has like you know, a pair of whatever like like the Travis Scott's New Jordans shipped to him or like I I'm I would be shocked if he doesn't, right? Right exactly. And that blows my mind to no end because you don't. Unless I'm missing something. I don't remember ever seeing him in popular media whenever he's you see him pictures of him on the news or anything. You know, wearing these things, but I bet when he's walking around the house he is like looking at his closet and he's like, which pair of high top Jordans am I going to wear today? Yeah, he's got to have a **** load of Jordans. And I can't help but wonder, knowing that he wasn't allowed to wear jeans as a kid, if the secret to his madness might not be as simple as the fact that his mom wouldn't buy him Jankos. Because, you know, that was everyone's cross to bear in a in in middle school or not, you could get Jankos. Though I sure did. I was able to get some. Oh yeah, I had a pair of jncos abso ******* lutely. But tragically, Kim Jong-un did not. Now it's time for another ad pivot, and I was going to do a ginko's ad, but but but I I don't know if the company still exists, so a lot of our ads are randomly slotted. And God willing, when we drop to add break, it'll be an ad for Jinko. But you know, if it's **** pills, still pretty good. Still pretty good ad. Products. Hey, it's Rick Schwartz, one of your hosts for San Diego Zoo's Amazing Wildlife podcast. In this special episode, we sit down with Doctor Jane Goodall to hear her inspiring thoughts on how we can create a better future for humans, animals and the environment. Anything, particularly young children out into nature so that they can experience it and take time off from this virtual world of being always on your cell phones and so on. And get the feel of nature so that you come to be fascinated, then you come to want to understand it, and then you come to love it, and at that point you want to protect it. And then we'll come to the sort of healthy world that I envision as a good future for us. And the rest of life on this planet. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on Tik T.O.K. You maybe even heard the rumors from your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade, we here at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions, sometimes their answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research with you for the first time ever in a book format, you can pre-order stuff they don't want you to know now. It's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read or wherever you find your favorite books. My name is Erica Kelly and I am the host and creator of Southern Freight true crime. There are so many people that just have no idea about some injustices in the world, and if you can give a voice to them, you can create change. To be able to do it within podcasting is just such a gift. I believe it was 18 months after I got on with Spreaker that I was making enough that I could quit my day job. It was incredible. I always felt like an ambassador for speaker. But that's because I'm passionate about podcasting. It's really easy to use. I always tell people I am so not tech. Took me 5 minutes to get comfortable with spreaker, and when I find a new friend that has an incredible show, I want them to make money. I want them to be able to do what I did. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's break your handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's Get paid to talk about the things you love. Spreaker from iheart. We're back. We're back. We're talking about Kim Jong-un in middle school and high school in Switzerland, where he was at best a mediocre student like the host of this podcast. And I'm going to guess most of your guest and our guest, yeah, lot of C students in the entertainment industry. It's kind of kind of what fuels Hollywood. Yeah, don't trust any a students in Hollywood. We just had a soundboard fall off of the wall. Now. Eli, I need to see student move. I need you to make sure it is the poison room still intact. OK, are you, are you aware of the poison room? Has anyone told you that room? Is that a real thing? Yeah, there's a poison room. You see that glass balcony behind you that's walled off from the outside? It's it's filled with poison because of the off gassing of the materials they used to seal it. So if that door opens, everyone dies. Poison room. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. For for for now it's sealed. For now. The door looks it's like off actually. Yeah, yeah. It's it's like a little bit of a sort of Damocles situation where where one day we will be struck down for our hubris of having the poison room. I do like podcasting in a danger zone. In fact, that's what makes I think, a podcast more captivating. And it probably what what's fueling us, yeah, is the risk of pointless death. Yeah, now what he loved. Yeah, exactly. Being next to a room filled with poison. Uh, yeah. So Kim Jong-un was in. Not a great student, and as a foreigner who didn't speak the local language, he was. You know. He was kind of an outsider. He had two friends who were really like he actually hung out with a lot, and they were both kids who weren't Swiss originally too, so they all kind of had that to bond over the fact that they didn't speak the language very well. Kim Jong-un was particularly well known for his temper tantrums, particularly when his classmates would switch from speaking High German, which he knew, to Swiss German, which he could not understand. One girl who was a classmate of Kim Jong-un's reported he kicked us in the shins and even spat at us when they would start. Losing Swiss German. And she did add that over time he seemed to thaw and get more used to dealing with his classmates as equals rather than as objects for him to abuse. Did any of them ever fight back? I'm curious what the reaction was or what the students were. They were told to react to it. Yeah. They didn't know that he was the son of a dictator. I think they just thought that he was like, he probably would just come across as like a mostly quiet kid who had every now and then would have temper tantrums and like spit on people. And I'm sure the teacher scolded him and stuff. But like, you know, it's not a, it's not like a, it's a, it's a Swiss, you know, school. So they're they're they're pretty light on the, the, the discipline. Yeah. They're not going to be like hitting them and stuff. It's going to be like when I grew up in Oklahoma and they would paddle us, but also like if you spit on someone in school here, you're liable to get knocked the **** out. Yeah, I don't think that's. I don't think that happened to Kim Jong-un. He might be a better person today if somebody had knocked him the **** out. But I have not run into any stories of that happening. And it seems like he was kind of isolated and a little bit lonely at school, but was not like bullied or or ostracized. It was more that like because he just didn't have a super good grasp of the language. He kind of felt like an outsider. His chief loved during this. Continue to be a basketball. He wore only the best for games, Michael Jordan replica Chicago Bulls jerseys, Chicago Bulls shorts, and of course the latest Air Jordans. According to the great successor, Kim's competitive side came out on the basketball court. He could be aggressive and often indulged in trash talk. He was serious on the basketball court. He could be aggressive and often indulged in trash talk. He was serious on the court, hardly ever laughing or even talking, just focusing on the game when things went badly for him. He would curse or even pound his head against the wall sometimes. In addition to the other Asian teenagers, Kim Jong Un arrived with a couple of adults, came along and set up small camping chairs beside the court, keeping score on a little board and clapping when Kim landed a basket. So again, he's as close to normal as you can have a childhood as a dictator during the periods of time where he's in Switzerland. But it's still not normal, right? Yeah, yeah, it's still completely. Oh my God. So one of Kim's few friends at school noted that he also played basketball at home on his PlayStation when he couldn't be out on the court. They said the whole world for him was just basketball all the time. Another of his friends, a kid named Marco Imhoff, spoke about the occasional hints he would see of the man Kim Jong-un would become. One time, he came over to Jiang. House for dinner and their spaghetti was cold. He saw Kim Jong-un snap at the cook brutally enough that it stuck in Marco's mind. 20 years later, interviews with other classmates paint a picture of a quiet, nerdy, basketball loving loner who absolutely avoided contact with girls and refused to share any details of his private life. One of his few good friends recalled. We weren't the dimmest kids in class, but neither were we the cleverest. We were always in the second tier. The teachers would see him struggling, ashamedly, and then move on. They left him in peace. He left without getting any exam results at all. Who is much more interested in football and basketball than lessons? Wow. So yeah, that's him at school in 1998, when John was 14, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She sought treatment in France and would linger for several years, but she eventually died from the disease. Her brother and sister, who had acted as Jong-un's fake Swiss parents for years, decided that their sisters sickness was a sign that they should flee for safety. On May 17th they went on the run with their three biological children, abandoning Kim Jong Un and his brother. And showed up at the United States embassy asking for asylum. They live in the United States to this day. Kim Jong-un would spend his remaining time in Switzerland with a separate set of handlers, and we just don't know anything about how that impacted him emotionally. We don't really know anything about how he felt about his aunt and uncle. We don't know how he felt about them fleeing for the United States. They, in the interviews with the author of the Great successor, they like, reported being frustrated at the coverage of Kim Jong-un that they saw on TV in the States and how negative it always was. So they seem to still be kind of protective towards him, but we don't really know if he took this as an abandonment or if it was just kind of water off of a duck's back. Oh man, I I'm this is what's most fascinating about it is his version is the most complex of all of the succession. You know what I mean? Like his his other his his father and his and his grandfather had much more like their stories are pretty you know like almost streamlined, whereas his has a lot of. Like complexities to it. And I'm sure I would wager to say that it it it probably did affect them in the same way that he probably learned that he was the product of an affair. I I don't think those things at some point or another, they're going to have some kind of impact on you. Yeah. It's just kind of hard to say what that is like. And that's part of why I'm concluding all of the Kims in two episodes as opposed to doing a 2 parter on Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il. Is that, like, we just don't have that much really solid fact about how the two grew up? You know enough about Kim Jong Un that you can really make him into a person in your head, which you can't with the others. In 2002, Kim Jong Un returned to North Korea full time to attend the Kim Il Sung Military Academy, where he learned how to manage the army that he had technically been a general of from the age of about 7. Official North Korean propaganda assures us that he was instantly so good at war that he wound up teaching his instructors rather than learning from them. He would regularly keep senior military officials up late into the night, advising them on how to organize their forces. And stretching them whenever they told him he really ought to get some sleep. That's of course the official North Korean I was going to say. This totally reeks of propaganda ********. Yeah, yeah, yeah. In 2008, Kim Jong-il's health took a major turn for the worse. He clearly realized that his time was ending and hurriedly rushed the process of making his son his official successor. That same year, he called a Workers Party Congress and had them vote to confirm Kim Jong-un as his successor. This was the first time many N Koreans would have heard of the boy and Jong-il's case. That process had started in the late 1970s. Giving him 20 years as a public figure in North Korea before taking the baton from his father, Kim Jong-un would only have three years before taking power. No time. Sorry, just one question. What is the age difference when each of them get assumed? And again, I I let's see here. Kim Jong-un was born in 84. Yeah, yeah. He was born in 84 and Kim Il Sung or Kim Kim Jong-il was born in 1940 or so, like 4041. So he's born 41. He took, you'd been like 53 when he took power in his early 50s. Right. So he, I mean, clearly, obviously, he was the youngest. Kim Jong-un. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Kim Jong-un was absolutely the young, like, well, actually, I mean margin, like, it's crazy. Yeah. He's a lot younger than his dad is. When. He takes power, which is, you know, largely because Kim Jong-il was an alcoholic who poisoned his body and died very young. Which, you know, if you're going to be a dictator, my preference is that you poison yourself today. So, yeah, yeah, I'm down with that. Not going to complain. With no time to waste, Kim Jong-il began promoting his son up the ladder like he was trying to win a sprinting award in the Nepotism Olympics. The propaganda departments of North Korea began referring to Kim Jong-un as the leader. Comrade, the regime printed out booklets they sent to the Army titled the Material in teaching the greatness of respected Comrade General Kim Jong Un. It informed them that at age 3, Kim Jong-un had been. Capable of shooting out light bulbs from 100 yards away with a handgun, but the time he was eight, the book claimed he could drive large trucks at 80 miles an hour. Shortly after publishing this, Kim Jong-un was promoted to command of the Korean People's Army, which was hereafter renamed the Kim Jong Un Armed Forces. So. Wow, that's cool. Yeah geez, the, the turnaround. Also, I love that that a big flex for him is driving a huge truck at 80 miles an hour. Oh yeah, as a little kid, yeah, that is a big flex. Yeah, the military that Kim Jong-un was about to inherit would be a fundamentally different force from the one that his grandfather had built and his father had inherited. This is because on October 3rd, 2006 the regime detonated its first nuclear device. There is some debate still over whether or not it was a successful test of a low yield nuke or an. Accidental fizzle that wound up being far smaller than intended. In either case, the detonation was an actual nuclear explosion, and North Korea would only get better at manufacturing weapons of mass destruction from that point on. Over the next five years, as Kim Jong-il sickened and began to die, Kim Jong-un increasingly took up the organs of power. The pride of being the first North Korean leader to develop nukes would go to his father, but Kim Jong Un would be the first of his line to learn how to use the weapons to get what he wanted. We'll talk about that and much more in Part 2. Eli, you want to plug your huggables? Yes, please. Thank you so much for having me. I. Check out closure, the podcast that never ends, available on iTunes, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. And I have another podcast called Pod as a woman, but I should say what closure is about. I don't think closure is real. And I interview a bunch of people. They tell different stories about whether or not they found closure in certain things, and it sounds weighty, but it's also great conversations. And then I Co host a podcast, Theresa Lee called Potters Woman, where we do a track by track breakdown of Ariana Grande's most recent albums, and we have a bunch of our friends come on and talk about whether they're into it or not. And of course, you can find me online. On all the socials at Eli Olsberg and Eli for show information. And lastly, if you live in LA, I have a show called performance anxiety at the ******** *****. It's a monthly stand up show, second Tuesday of every month. And I am Robert Evans. You can find me on the Internet at I write OK on Twitter, you can find You can fight us on Twitter and Instagram at at ******** pod. And you can buy T-shirts teepublic behind the ******** so check those out. Check it all out if you listening right now are the child of a dictator who is going to school in a western country, hiding out under an assumed name and listening to podcasts as you bite your time until gaining power. Just remember, I I do take bribes. That's that's all I have to say. Yeah, I would. I would love to write a positive podcast about you and your family. So, so hit me up. We could we could do a sponsorship, you know? Yeah. And Venmo me at Eli Olsberg if you, if you wanted to invite me to talk about it. If you guys start getting like Gaddafi's kids sending you cash, yeah, he's a big, big fan of the show, OK? That's it. That's the episode. We're done here. Go, go hug a cat or something. Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried True crime, and if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams, let's break or handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to Espr E do you love movies? Well I have the podcast for you. Hey there, this is Mike D from movie Mikes movie podcast your go to source for all things movies. Each episode explores a different movie topic plus spoiler free reviews on the latest streaming and movies in theaters. You'll also get interviews with actors and directors to take a look behind the scenes of your favorite movies. Listen to new episodes of movie Mikes Movie podcast Every Monday on the Nashville podcast. 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