Update GMT 13.13 June 17: Official DPRK responses
Among Kim Jong-un’s gifts to some of North Korea’s high-ranking officials this year were copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, according to a trusted source who serves as a DPRK official in China. To mark Kim Jong-un’s birthday on January 8th, DPRK officials ranked departmental director and above in the National Defence Committee were presented with the autobiography of Adolf Hitler in the form of a “hundred-copy book”. (This refers to a limited edition of translated books which are officially banned but have been published in secret for the consumption of members of the North Korean elite.)
During the rule of Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, DPRK officials received holiday gifts of western liquor, tailoring fabric and other foreign luxury goods. Since Kim Jong-un came to power, however, the leader’s customary holiday gifts have been very different, including items such as imported sports equipment, CDs and foreign books in translation.
“Kim Jong-un gave a lecture to high-ranking officials, stressing that we must pursue the policy of Byungjin (Korean for ‘in tandem’) in terms of nuclear and economic development. Mentioning that Hitler managed to rebuild Germany in a short time following its defeat in WWI, Kim Jong-un issued an order for the Third Reich to be studied in depth and asked that practical applications be drawn from it,” the source told us in a telephone interview.
He added that Kim Jong-un highlighted sports as the secret behind Germany’s unity and ideological successes. Kim also stressed the superiority of Hitler’s thinking in childhood-related policies, and issued an order for propaganda departments to encourage a “Three Child” policy.
During Kim Jong-il’s rule, state propaganda associated large families with the need for more soldiers. A mother who sent eight children to serve in the military was the heroic model in childhood-related propaganda because she had reared “eight cannonballs”. Under Kim Jong-un, families are being given different incentives for having more children. According to the new policy, a family with three children will receive privileges such as being granted priority for university entrance. In addition, they will be moved higher up the housing lists and will receive double rations on holidays. Ri Sol-ju, the wife of Kim Jong-un, has been made responsible for directing the “Three Child” policy, and a cult depicting Ri as “the Mother of Chosun” has become a focal point for propagandists.
Rumours have been spreading among the Pyongyang elite that Kim Jong-un made a close study of Hitler while at school in Switzerland, according to a second trusted North Korean source, a DPRK business representative and a frequent traveler between Pyongyang and China. Spreading rumours among the elite that reinforce a message delivered through other channels has long been a tactic of North Korea’s propagandists.
We were also told that Choe Pu-il, the director of People’s Security (secret police) made a speech at a national security meeting in which he referred to the Gestapo: “We are equivalent to a police force. In other countries, people fear the police more than they fear the army. Stop focusing on ways to make money in the markets, and mould yourselves after the Gestapo. In the Kim Jong-un era, the Department of People’s Security is the most powerful department – be proud.” The speech has been widely publicized among the elite and this has heightened the atmosphere of fear and mutual suspicion, said our source.
A copy of a classified document obtained by New Focus attests to the increasing characterization of Kim Jong-un among the elite as a brutal figure, in spite of his youth. This is in stark contrast to public characterizations of the new leader, and to official characterizations of his father, Kim Jong-il. The document, stamped “Secret” and restricted to military officials ranked above the political bureau level, is titled, “In faithfully carrying out the orders of the Chairman of the Central Military Commission Comrade Kim Jong-un, sole successor of Dear Supreme Commander Comrade Kim Jong-il, the propagandists of the Korean People’s Army will play a central role and lead the way.” In one section, Kim Jong-un is quoted as saying: “If there is a kitchen knife at hand, strike the enemy with it; if there is a club, club the enemy. You must use anything and everything at hand to bring about reunification of the homeland.” High-level defectors have testified that the use of violent imagery in internal communications is extremely unusual.
(The source’s name and affiliation is stamped at the bottom of the title page, and the image has been cropped to protect his identity.)
Unlike his father Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un is always surrounded by associates in official photographs depicting him at work. Moreover, DPRK state media has put great emphasis on sport over the past few months, and Kim Jong-un is frequently surrounded by children. These add further weight to the sources’ testimonies that suggest Adolf Hitler is a source of inspiration for Kim Jong-un’s propagandists, who are making increased efforts to ratchet up an atmosphere of terror among the North Korean elite.