Reporters Without Borders

Predators

North Korea
Kim Jong-un
Chairman of Central Military Commission, first secretary of Korean Workers Party, supreme leader of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The successor to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, who died of a heart attack in December 2011, Kim Jong-un moved even before he took over to shut down the flow of information from abroad.

In August 2011, Kim Jong-un ordered repression intensified throughout the country, with special attention to media originating in South Korea. And he completely cut off shipments of foreign goods including mobile phones and CDs. Group 109, the anti-smuggling unit, received authorization to conduct random searches of homes.

The government then created another investigative unit under the control of the propaganda and agitation department, assigned to eradicate “anti-socialist activities.”

Little is known of Kim Jong-un. His having attended school in Switzerland, his youth and his inexperience do not provide a basis for predicting how he will rule. But information that is circulating, notably concerning party purges at the local level, point to a hard-line policy aimed at ensuring his dominance of the country’s ruling elite.

Some refugees who had escaped North Korea before 2009 said that before they fled they had never even heard of Kim Jong-un. Since September 2010, when he was named a four-star general of the Korean People’s Army, appointed a permanent member of the party central committee and vice president of its military commission, Kim Jong-un has generated a personality cult similar to the one that centred on Kim Jong-Il. Since January 2010, state media refer to him as “father.”

Despite the opening of a permanent Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang in January 2012, North Korea is as closed to the outside world as any nation on earth. Jim Jong-un does not appear ready, for now, to loosen his absolute control of the media.

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