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North Korean Dissident: Kim Jong Un is Inexperienced

  • Zlatica Hoke

As tensions escalate on the Korean Peninsula with Pyongyang warning foreigners to leave and closing an industrial complex on the border with South Korea, many around the world are wondering what prompted the communist country to provoke its neighbors and the rest of the world.

Analysts have offered various views on why North Korea's young leader Kim Jong Un is focused on strengthening the military instead of trying to improve the well-being of his impoverished people.

Tensions Rising on Korean Peninsula

  • February 12: North Korea carries out third nuclear test
  • March 27: North Korea cuts military hotline with South Korea
  • March 28: U.S. B-2 bombers fly over Korean peninsula
  • March 30: North Korea says it has entered a "state of war" with South Korea
  • April 3: North Korea blocks South Korean workers from Kaesong
  • April 4: North Korea moves a missile to its east coast
  • April 9: North Korea urges foreigners to leave the South. The U.S. and South Korea raise alert level
  • April 14: US Secretary of State John Kerry offers talks with Pyongyang if it moves to scrap nuclear weapons
  • April 16: North Korea issues threats after anti-Pyongyang protests in Seoul
  • April 29: North Korea holds back seven South Koreans at Kaesong
  • April 30: North Korea sentences American to 15 years hard labor for hostile acts
  • May 20: North Korea fires projectiles for a consecutive third day
  • May 24: North Korean envoy wraps up China visit for talks on Korean tensions
  • June 7: South Korea accepts Pyongyang's offer of talks on Kaesong and other issues
A former North Korean spy who now lives in South Korea has provided a rare insight into the inner workings of the secretive state and its young leader.

"Kim Jong Un is too young and too inexperienced. He's struggling to gain complete control over the military and to win their loyalty,'' said Kim Hyun Hee speaking to Australia's ABC television at an undisclosed location.

She helped plant a bomb on a South Korean airliner in 1987 that killed 115 people on board. South Korean authorities captured her and sentenced her to death. But she was pardoned after it was determined that she had been brainwashed by the North.

Kim says there are reasons behind Kim Jong Un's threats.

"North Korea is using its nuclear program to keep its people in line and to push South Korea and the United States for concessions,'' she said.

Others agree. Suzanne DiMaggio, an expert at the Asia Society, says the regime is mainly looking for ways to keep power.

"If you look at the situation in North Korea itself... Economically, in terms of humanitarian aspects, it is in dire straits. So it is very well likely that the regime is using April 15th, Founder's Day, and this huffing and puffing of its military might as a way to rally the people and stoke nationalism within the country to support this new leader," said DiMaggio.

Military analysts say that despite the threats, the North Korean 1.2 million-strong military is showing no signs of preparing for war. But they say Pyongyang is likely to engage in some provocative action, such as firing a missile or testing a nuclear weapon, to mark the birthday of North Korea's founder and the current leader's grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

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