What do we really know about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un? We may glimpse flattering images from his own self-produced propaganda, and we may be aware of the villainous lore which has mushroomed around his identity in the West, but very few hard facts have been made available about his upbringing and the events that may have shaped his worldview. Kim Jong-un: The Unauthorized Biography seeks to fill in those gaps. It’s a fascinating portrait that manages to demystify this important and enigmatic figure.
The youngest son of former leader Kim Jong-il, he received his formative education in Switzerland. His classmates and teachers – some of whom are interviewed in the film – recall him as a perfectly pleasant, yet sometimes rowdy student with a keen interest in basketball and video games.
He was ill-prepared to inherit his father’s mantle of power. But upon his father’s death in 2011, that’s exactly where he found himself, and his ascent quickly placed him on the international stage. He was just 26 years of age. His first actions were viewed by many as a barbaric slap against tradition as he executed his father’s closest advisor, and terminated many additional members of the old guard. He recruited only those who stood unquestioning and unfailing in their loyalty to him.
The film’s tone becomes increasingly foreboding when portraying his attempts to escalate his country’s military might. He quickly doubled down on his father’s quest to become a nuclear power, enhanced recruitment and training of North Korean soldiers, and successfully implemented a series of damaging cyber-attacks upon his enemies.
In spite of these extreme courses of action, many of the dictator’s countrymen view him as a deity. Could this be the result of a brainwashed population taken in by a carefully constructed propaganda machine? The United States intelligence officials who are interviewed in the film seem to think so.
Featuring candid interviews from those with first-hand knowledge, and a wealth of footage that proves revealing for what it doesn’t show, Kim Jong-un: The Unauthorized Biography is a must-see for those who wish to learn more about the elusive leader who towers over this perilous region of the world.
Directed by: Anthony Dufour