Is Kim Jong Un more dangerous than his father?
The late Kim Jong Il (left) and his son Kim Jong Un (right), the current leader of North Korea
March 7th, 2013
06:57 PM ET

Is Kim Jong Un more dangerous than his father?

By Elise Labott

North Korea's threat to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States has puzzled American officials, who see the regime ramping up its threats and rhetoric.

It's leading to the belief that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is more unpredictable, more dangerous and harder to read than his late father, Kim Jong Il.

"The new leader is acting in ways a bit more extreme than his father, who was colder and more calculated," a senior administration official said. "Kim Jong Il was more aware of the off-ramps to end these escalations.

"I don't recall he ever went this far in terms of the pace and scope of the rhetoric. Threatening to launch nukes directly against the United States and South Korea confirms what a lot of people have been saying, which is we are dealing with someone new," the official added.

Comparing Kim Jong Il, who died last December, to a chess player, the official said the son is more like a boxer.

"Nobody knows what he has planned, what he is thinking or contemplating doing or why the North Koreans are tripling down on their rhetoric," the official said.

Another senior administration official said Kim's youth and education abroad offered promise for many North Korea watchers that he would be more willing to engage with the West.

"Unfortunately, he is following the example of his father and grandfather pretty closely," the official said. "It's hard to be optimistic."

His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was the founding leader of North Korea.

Officials said the latest threats, coupled with North Korea's nuclear test last month and its launch of a long-range rocket into space in December, have the United States and South Korea bracing for the possibility of a violent response by Pyongyang to tougher U.N. sanctions approved on Thursday.

They pointed to the 2010 sinking of a South Korean submarine and shelling of a South Korean island.

"It's dangerous to dismiss these threats as just rhetoric and propaganda, the second official said. "It's hard to predict."

Leading up to the U.N. vote, North Korea upped its bellicose rhetoric.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry suggested the United States "is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war."

As a result, North Korea "will exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country," the country said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Despite the strong language, analysts say North Korea is years away from having the technology necessary to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile and aim it accurately at a target. And, analysts say, North Korea is unlikely to seek a direct military conflict with the United States.

North Korea's behavior is even more curious because it comes as South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, took office last week calling for new dialogue with the North. Although she pledged a strong defense posture and retaliation against North Korean provocations, she called for easing tensions that grew under her predecessor.

"Given that for five years they were so angry at the previous president, Lee Myung-bak, why would they mortgage the next five years by being so difficult when a new South Korea leader is just taking office," the first official asked. "It's so very concerning."

Officials note that China, North Korea's closest ally, has demonstrated unprecedented frustration with Pyongyang's behavior.

In rare public statements, a top Chinese Communist party official suggested that China abandon North Korea and support unification with South Korea.

"We are in a new territory. Something is happening in China," one of the officials said. "For the North to be acting this way at this time has everyone on edge on what is going on, but nobody has good answers because the country is so opaque. We are trying to find a precedence to explain this."

The worst possible explanation, the official said, "is that the North Koreans don't have a plan. That is when chances for miscalculation are the greatest."

soundoff (415 Responses)
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    April 30, 2013 at 2:08 am | Reply
  5. Raventhorn

    of course he's dangerous. he was handpicked by his father, so he probably spent his entire childhood being taught that north korea was an unbeatable nation, that he himself was it's perfect leader, that america was hell in disguise, etc. someone like that is not only terribly unpredictable, but also extremely dangerous.

    April 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  6. Reticuli

    "Given that for five years they were so angry at the previous president, Lee Myung-bak, why would they mortgage the next five years by being so difficult when a new South Korea leader is just taking office," the first official asked. "It's so very concerning."

    When has the north ever attempted to ease tensions?

    April 1, 2013 at 12:53 am | Reply
  7. James Hay

    Don't Trust Obama To Protect Our Allies And Interests Abroad You Most Certainly Will Regret It.

    March 28, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Reply
    • Dave

      How about we agree that you have no clue what you're talking about – perhaps citing an example you didn't see off on fox news would be a start.....The President is protecting our interests and allies- too bad you never get to see it.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  8. James Hay

    Ignore Whach Jobs Like Kim Il Eun

    March 28, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Reply
  9. dcmortmer

    He needs a reality check like maybe a drone carrying a bomb with his name on it .

    March 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  10. USA!1

    Do you people have any life, who cares which dictator is worse?

    March 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Reply
    • Will

      the ? is USA do you.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  11. Sam D

    Kim is just a figurehead .. in fact it is his handlers who – while they remain in the background, are controlling policy; and this latest 'military threat' is an attempt by them to extract major concessions from the USA and to a lesser extent, to get more aid from China.

    March 21, 2013 at 9:04 am | Reply
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    March 21, 2013 at 8:14 am | Reply
    • Will

      avrupa u r a kiss ass

      March 26, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  13. Speculus

    Open letter to Kim Jong Un:

    Dear Sir,

    It has become evident that you have no concern for the well-being of you citisens. You do not value the lives of NK soldiers any more than you value the lives of SK or U.S soldiers. It seems that provoking a war is just a simple game to you. It does not matter to you if the end result is a loss of lives of thousands or even millions and you do not care for those left behind to mourn their lost loved ones.

    There is no point in pleading you to think about others, when the only thing that you value is your self. I don't know how you have imagined how the war between NK and U.S would go, but I'm certain that you honestly believe that you can survive such a war. Sir, you could not be more wrong.

    You need to realise that if you start this war it doesn't matter how many U.S soldiers, SK soldiers or SK civilians die, wether the number is zero or two million. From day one to the last day of fighting, you will be the number one target. You will be hunted down, but not for capture, not to be trialed nor jailed. You are going down the same path as Usama Bin Laden, and to the same place the path ends.

    Please concider this.

    March 21, 2013 at 2:06 am | Reply
    • Dom

      Come on now.... The best thing for the new NK leader is a US invasion. He is very aware his country can't continue in its present direction. Once the people realize how much they have been oppressed he will be enemy number 1 i his on country – and perhaps healready is... He can't open up his country without undermining his own personal security. If he tries to change the country to fast his own brainwashed army will turn on him. His safest bet is to provoke a US invasion which wipes out most of his army. He can then get politicol asylum in another country and be safe. NK will be able to unite with SK and follow the path of East Germany.

      March 21, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply
  14. somebody

    no it was that short guy at the back of the group. ok lets get serious, lets say he attacks first south korea is not fit to fight, but the U.S. along with NATO will back them,the there is china if the side with the north it will be a war of super powers, if kimmys balls drop he'll use his 1 and only nuke but it will half to get driven by truck cause his rockets wont leave the country, his best bet would be ground war with his melnorished troops....

    March 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  15. Will

    the picture of the two looks like a "who farted" i think it was the guy behind kim jong ll

    March 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  16. enuftrashtalk

    Dangerous is not a synonym for stupid.

    March 20, 2013 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • Will

      bobble head need diet

      March 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  17. JonO

    This is the act of the Illuminati, WW3 is coming. I hope to god we all see this & act, not just sit around & be controlled. we as people need to stand against this corruption

    March 20, 2013 at 4:55 am | Reply
  18. Will

    And when he does strike we'll be ready. along with the rest of the world.

    March 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • Paul Pierce

      I can sum up in one word what makes him more dangerous than his father. Unintelligent

      March 19, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Reply
      • Max

        Yes, 100% yes.

        March 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • yawn

      Great, thanks for speaking like you're in charge of things, you id*ot.

      March 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  19. Will

    kim jung un is just a child with new toys who is alway trying to destroy them. he wants to strike first let him. he want to show what power he thinks he has let him but in the end all is destroyed and he is left powerless and this where his mind ends not whats going to happen but after what happens. a saying is said in a game i play on the side "all it takes to change the world, is the will of a single man " kim jung un is that man and all we half to do is wait......wait for change

    March 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  20. TB

    The two primary definitions of a "monarch":

    1. somebody, especially a king or queen, who rules a state or territory, usually for life and by hereditary right.
    2. somebody who possesses exceptional power or influence in an area of activity.

    Kim Jong Un may not think he's a "monarch in the traditional sense, but that's exactly what he is; someone who rules a state or territory with absolute authority, and the position is obtained by hereditary right. Most other Communist countries (at least in Europe) all had Politburos that could remove the nation's leader if he went off the rails (as with Kruschev, Honnecker, etc). North Korea doesn’t even have that.

    North Korea is nothing more than a monarchy where the peasants starve and the royalty and aristocracy eat well (evidenced by photographs of the lad). This family is more “imperialist” than America ever thought of being.

    March 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • Ariana

      Actually you are quite wrong. Most of the power lies with the ruling political party and military. Kim is just a figurehead, an icon.

      March 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  21. cjwp

    "The worst possible explanation, the official said, "is that the North Koreans don't have a plan. That is when chances for miscalculation are the greatest." – I am surprised the officials are so perplexed. What the North Korean leadership is doing is a familiar game of raising the stakes, hoping the rest of the world is relieved when they settle for less than the worst case scenario. It is a familiar game.

    March 19, 2013 at 8:56 am | Reply
  22. grahams

    This kid might have access to grownup toys. I only hope those who own him are more mature and have a better barber.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  23. History&Religion-prof.

    Maybe he wants to show that he can do better than his father by bringing the unification of Koreas under Communist rule.

    Is anything wrong with that ? from their and Communists perspective....Given the Rampage, Stealing and the Sufferings of the downtrodden in Capitalists Countries ? In Their minds they are Trying to Help others to a better Life....ruled by the Working class...where NO Greed takes hold......Greed and Corruption are big problems for most countries and Commune-ism is just another Ideology to attempt to solve those problems. Whether it does or not, I do Not know !

    March 18, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Reply
    • Lex Walker

      If you were actually a professor of history and religion you *would* know the answer when it came to whether or not communism was the answer to a renewed peace and sustainable structure. It's not. It hasn't worked yet because Communism assumes total transparency of the people responsible for keeping the communist structure in place and so far no country has been able to wrangle up politicians who could be trusted not to abuse the communist structure in their favor. The best example? NORTH KOREA. Their citizens live in abject poverty as the governing body and military live large at their expense. You want proof communism is not the answer for Korea? Look at North Korea's barely surviving state and then look at South Korea's thriving capitalist state. South Korea is an utter paradise when compared to North Korea (when compared to a great number of places, actually – it's a very clean and beautiful country). That you couldn't figure this much out makes me think you're not a professor of anything, just a NK puppet hired to spout pro-NK rhetoric online. Which is funny in its own right if anyone thinks NK's propaganda machine works anywhere outside the very insular NK government and military.

      March 19, 2013 at 5:44 am | Reply
  24. digifreestylemasterevileyepredator

    Drone them gangum style.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
  25. digifreestylemasterevileyepredator

    We need to drone them gangam style.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:16 am | Reply
  26. tigermike1

    How long do we haft to wait for north korea to actually send a missile.then the so called anylist well say well they coulndt make it all the way to heart of America. Stirke now and save thousands. I was told kill the few to save the many.not wait and see many they can kill first. Or we can wait in a year when they do have the capabilities to do so. Obama will wait till next president to make a decision so he does not haft govern.
    Instead hill go campaigning some more or golf neglect or military,shut down white house release more prisoners and blame on republicans!! And get north Korea in press conference with kim and generals behind him.

    March 17, 2013 at 6:06 am | Reply
  27. goico119


    March 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  28. pnm9pnm

    look i reit this 2 times ant gona right it agen,.pnm,.

    March 15, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Reply
  29. pnm9pnm

    theres moe to Kim J an NK.hes not looking 4 war or that commy hood he,s with in yet the vote is not hes moves he,s looking 4 better in gov,s as he has cometted any crims up to mow of any tipe an thats not ezy a crime to me is a injustus put 4 by1,.pnm,.

    March 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Reply
    • Stimpy

      You said it.

      March 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Reply
      • Lex Walker

        Right, but can someone clarify 'it'?

        March 19, 2013 at 5:48 am |
  30. jac999

    The headline asks, if he is more dangerous than his father.
    Suffice it to say, the ones pulling his strings appear to be just as dangerous.

    March 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  31. NomNom

    China should annex North Korea instead of giving it to South; if Korea is reunified by South, they will be a greater threat to regional security, and South Korea will have all their long range missile and nuclear technology! They are all Koreans, and Koreans are crazy!
    Also, I don't think South Korea's can feed 24 million starving people and develope a country that is larger than itself. It will be a disaster to South Korea's economy.

    March 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  32. Rembrant

    A couple of well placed cruise missiles into their nuke facility will quickly shut this little four-footer up.

    March 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • omahakidw

      The problem, most of the non-intellectuals here fail to comprehend, is that allot of people will die prior to the goal of ilimination of this rogue regime. I wonder how many of them have a number in their mind that would be acceptable ?

      March 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Reply
      • JASE

        All of them would be acceptable. Think of what a great vacation spot NK could be if we just got rid of the NK's.
        Why should I care how many die? I wouldn't affect me at all. You can try to use the economic card I guess, however war is a money maker and I would come out on top.

        April 3, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Old Enough

      I agree, someone shouls neuter him. Maybe it will be the Chinese? That would be a statement. NK set the precident by attacking SK Territory, Killing SK Soldiers, and sinking SK boats.

      March 19, 2013 at 8:17 am | Reply
  33. johnnydoughboy

    Kim Jong Un appears more dangerous, irrational, and certainly carries more weight than his Father.

    March 15, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply
    • Hohoho

      "carries more weight than his Father" - I see what you did there.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:01 am | Reply
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