Insider exclusive: What guides the decision-making of Kim Jong-un?
A little-known secret about the Kims, North Korea’s ruling family, has been disclosed to New Focus by one of our trusted correspondents deep within the regime. We are as wary of numerology as you may be, but that does not mean the Kims are as discerning.
Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were both very superstitious throughout their lives and had fortune tellers in their entourage everywhere they went. Numerology is an important aspect of Asian culture, and our source says that the Kim family trusts particularly in the number nine as being intertwined with their destiny, as well as with that of their nation. This is apparently why the birthday of Kim Jong-il’s successor, his youngest son Kim Jong-un, falls on January 8th (1+8=9).
In East Asia, nine is traditionally considered auspicious as it is the highest number before the repetition of one and zero in ten. In classical Chinese, the character for ‘have’ (具) is pronounced the same as nine (gu) and is composed of nine strokes. In Korea specifically, three is also auspicious because three added three times makes nine. Our correspondent described to us how Kim Il-sung, the founder of the DPRK, especially liked the sound of gu. The character for ‘gilt’ (釦), also pronounced gu, included the character of his surname, ‘gold’ (金), pronounced kim.
At the time of Korea’s liberation from Japanese occupation, there existed eight shamans who represented the eight provinces of Korea. Out of these eight, the strongest shaman was thought to be that of Pyongan-do (also referred to as maenghochulrim or ‘origin of the tiger spirit’ due to it being the birthplace of several famous Koreans). This shaman is said to have told Kim Il-sung that the destiny of his bloodline was aligned with the number nine.
Perhaps it is following this advice that Kim Il-sung declared the founding date of the DPRK to be September 9th. Although there were five provinces in North Korea at the time, he increased the number to nine. The Supreme Guard Command, which is the personal bodyguard corps for Kim, was named ‘Unit 963’ (9 and 6+3 = 9, equals double nine – an especially lucky combination). Unit 963 was composed of two sections, Section 1 and Section 2 for Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il respectively.
Matters that relate to the chain of production that feeds the Kims uses the number nine. Throughout North Korea, there exist No.9 farms and No.9 work details, specially assigned by the Central Party’s Financial Administration Department. Their produce is used in cooking food for the Kims, and these meals are called No. 9 products.
Kim Jong-il, like his father, also made use of the number nine. It is said that he stressed the fact of his birthday falling on February 16th (2+1+6=9). He decreed that the number plates of his vehicles should read 2.16; and then, in order to disguise his personal vehicles, assigned this as a common number plate for all of North Korea’s inner elite.
Kim Jong-il was appointed to the highest military post on December 24th (1+2+2+4=9). His appointment as Party Secretary, which effectively formalized his dictatorial powers, was made three years and three months after the death of his father, Kim Il-sung, on July 8th, 1994 (October 8th, 1997: 1+8=9).
Applying this knowledge to recent North Korean history, New Focus found that nine coincides with a number of important dates. Kim Jong-il gave his son, Kim Jong-un, his first public role as General of the Korean People’s Army on September 27th, 2010 (9 and 2+7=9, equals double nine). On April 11th, 2012 (1+2+4+1+1=9) Kim Jong-un was appointed First Secretary of the Workers’ Party. On the next day, April 12th, 20(12), he was appointed 1st Director of the powerful National Defence Committee (2+4+1+2=9). On July 18th, 20(12), Kim Jong-un was appointed to the rank of Marshal (2+7=9 and 1+8=9, equals double nine yet again).
When North Korea makes international news with an impending rocket launch or nuclear test, outside observers often use dates that fall near the birthdays of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, or other state anniversaries, in order to predict the regime’s movements. Nevertheless, it is to the number nine that Kim Jong-un’s regime appears to have aligned its decisions.
Rocket launch No. 2 took place on April 5th, 2009 (4+5=9 and nine of 2009, double nine). Rocket launch No.3 took place on December 12th, 2012 (1+2+1+2+1+2=9). The third nuclear test happened on February 12th, (20)13 (1+3+2+1+2=9). The recent propaganda video released by the DPRK on YouTube, in which the East Coast of the US is consumed in a ‘sea of fire’, features rocket No. 9.
This kind of superstitious behaviour may seem obsessive, but is actually not considered so strange in Asia. Some families persuade their women to have a caesarean section, in order for their babies to have auspicious birthdays. Important dates such as weddings are often set in consultation with a fortune teller. Even in Hong Kong, the Bank of China Tower was set to be completed on August 8th, 1988 (the number eight in Chinese sounds like the word for ‘money’).
In this way, three generations of the Kim family have been fixated on the number nine. Ironically, observance of superstition is strictly forbidden for ordinary North Koreans. The people of North Korea are required to have faith only in the ruling Kim, but what guides the ruling Kim? Not, as we might think, the interests of his nation, and not even common sense; absurd as it may seem, what has directed the decisions of three generations of Kims may be their absolute faith in the number nine.