As the Diplomatic activity regarding North Korea continues. The driving force behind what the Communist nation does next will largely rest in the hands of one man. He is Kim Jong-IL, only the second leader North Korea has ever had. Our Chris Simkins with a profile of a man referred to in North Korea as the "great leader".
Kim Jong-Il, one of the most reclusive leaders in the world. Since he rarely appears in public or even travels outside North Korea he has been the topic of much speculation.
The picture painted of this man from sketchy intelligence reports and publications suggests Kim Jong-il is a brutal and unpredictable dictator, a leader who presides over a powerful military that is technically still at war with South Korea.
Details about his private life are based mostly on unsubstantiated reports that use adjectives such as cruel and vain to describe him. They say he is a man who likes young woman, expensive cars, fine liquor and Hollywood films.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who met Kim during a visit to North Korea in 2000, saw his professional side.
“In having discussions with him he is perfectly rational. And he is isolated but not uninformed.”
Inside North Korea, the 60-year old is portrayed by the State-controlled media as a peerless leader. He assumed power in the shadow of his father Kim Il-sung, the country’s founding leader.
Official North Korean accounts say Kim was born in a mountain top log cabin where his father led the revolution against Japanese occupation. From a young age his father groomed him to someday lead the country.
In the 1980’s Kim Jong-Il was accused of being behind a string of deadly terrorist attacks. They included a bombing in Burma that killed several South Korean cabinet members and blowing up a South Korean airliner in 1987.
In 1991 he took control of North Korea’s military and since then he has been able to keep the army on his side. It wasn’t until three years after his father’s death in 1994 that Kim officially became leader of North Korea.
The latter part of the decade proved to be disastrous as North Korea’s economy collapsed. That was followed by years of drought and famine.
In the late 1990’s Kim emerged from virtual isolation seeking international aid to help feed millions of starving North Koreans. He even took the unprecedented step of allowing international aid organizations into the country.
South Korean political analyst Jae Ho Chung, with the Brookings Institution in Washington, says Kim’s challenge has been to win the respect of North Koreans while maintaining close ties with the nations powerful million-man army.
JAE HO CHUNG
“We should keep in mind that Kim Jong-Il has been embarking on certain tracks of reform and evidence actually testifies to that although the extent of the opening and the extent of reform has been quite limited. Regarding the nuclear issue it is very difficult. Some people would actually argue that Kim Jong-Il has a stake in maintaining his power because he cannot be seen as weak in front of the military establishment so that is probably one dilemma that he has inside North Korean politics.
In order to solidify his political standing at home, Kim spent the last few years cultivating new relationships. He took the unprecedented step of holding a historic summit with former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung.
At the same time Kim Jong-Il also sought to create close ties with old allies. In the last few years he has held highly publicized meetings with former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Russian President Vladmir Putin.
Professor Chung Min Lee of Seoul’s Yonsei University says despite these images… CHUNG MIN LEE
“He is a ruthless, powerful leader who ultimately holds the destiny of North Korean. The destiny of North Korea and by extension, how peace or war could come to the Korea Peninsula.”
He is among many analysts who believe Kim Jong-Il is showing no signs of changing his image as one of the world’s most reclusive and intriguing leaders.