Entries in Kim Jong Un (29)


White House Responds to North Korean Threats

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that the time had come to "settle accounts with the U.S.," the White House responded, calling Kim's comments "unconstructive."

"We've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea. We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies," said Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.

In the statement, Hayden did note that North Korea "has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats," a pattern followed by Friday's threat.

Kim's statements on Friday declared a "state of war" with South Korea. He additionally threatened to respond to any provocation by South Korea or the United States "without any prior notice."

The Pentagon continues to take every North Korean threat seriously. Recently, plans were announced to increase U.S. ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar.

"We're concerned that their reach in and beyond the region will be extended over time," said a senior defense official. "That's one reason why it's all the more important to show that the United States is committed to our alliances, interests, and personnel in the Asia-Pacific."

South Korean media reported on Friday that North Korea's missile sites have been the location of increased activity. However, the South Korean government has said that there is no evidence to suggest the threats are anything more than propaganda.

Thousands of North Koreans gathered in Kim Il Sung Square on Friday in support of their leader's strong words. The rally came just one day after U.S. B-2 stealth bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula.

According to USA Today, North Korea's military, while poorly trained and equipped, is large enough to cause significant damage to its southern neighbor, before ultimately falling to a joint effort between South Korea and the U.S.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Dennis Rodman Won't Be Debriefed by State After Meeting Kim Jong Un

KNS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman may be the only American to have hugged, drank and laughed with North Korea's bad boy Kim Jong Un, but the U.S. State Department said Friday it has no plans to debrief Rodman for any personal intel on the man who says he is targeting the U.S. with his nuclear arsenal.

Rodman left Pyongyang Friday after stunning the diplomatic world with his basketball diplomacy. After watching an exhibition game with a laughing Kim, dining and drinking with him, even hugging the regime strongman, Rodman had lavish praise for Kim and his father and grandfather who have turned North Korean into a family affair.

No other American as far as anyone can tell has met with Kim since he assumed command of North Korea following his father's death in 2011. Since then, Kim has defied the world by pressing ahead with a nuclear arms and missile program which Kim says is aimed at the U.S.

Despite his access to Kim, however, Rodman will not be debriefed by American diplomats.

"We haven't been in touch with this traveling party at any point along in the process. They haven't been in touch with us. And so we don't have any plans in that regard," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

But he said as with any American who travels to North Korea and wants to talk to State, "We'll take their call."

"Here's a man who has had dinner with one of the most threatening men in the whole world, who continues to sell weapons of mass destruction to all of our enemies. And they don't even want to talk to him? That's ridiculous," said Steve Ganyard, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and a consultant to ABC News.

"There is nobody at the CIA who can tell you more personally about Kim Jong Un than Dennis Rodman and that in itself is scary," Ganyard said.


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In New Year’s Speech, North Korean Leader Pushes for Unity, Peace

Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- The new year came with all the fanfare that North Koreans have come to expect, but in a rare speech, the country’s young leader had a dramatically different message from what he had said before.

“This year the entire Korean nation should turn out in nationwide patriotic struggle for reunification in unity so as to usher in a new phase in the reunification movement,” Kim Jong Un said on Tuesday.  “We will, in the future, strive to develop relations of friendship and cooperation with countries that are friendly to our country.”

It was a message of peace, stability and a commitment to unify the Korean peninsula.  Analysts said the speech was directed toward the U.S. and South Korea’s new leader, Park Guen Hye, who has said she’s open to direct talks with Kim’s government.

On the streets of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, residents predictably praised the first New Year’s address in nearly 20 years.  Kim’s grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, had started the tradition.  Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, though, shunned the public.  He spoke publicly just once in the 17 years he ruled.

“I think he has sent various signals that he’s going to move his country in a new and different direction,” said Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.  “I think this New Year’s speech was the first step in that direction.”

Kim Jong Un has been secretive since he took over a year ago.  But Pyongyang has gone to great lengths to project a modern, more outgoing image of the leader.  He’s been seen visiting an amusement park, with his wife by his side.

“I mean, he knows far more about the outside world than his grandfather or his father because of the time he spent in Switzerland and that brings a completely new dimension to North Korean leadership,” Gregg said.

But Kim Jong Un has shown the same defiance of other countries as his father.  He successfully launched a long-range rocket last month -- a direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions -- and he’s shown no intention of abandoning Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Chinese Paper Mistakes Spoof Story on Kim Jong Un for News

Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages(BEIJING) -- The spoof newspaper The Onion apparently made some hearts flutter in China, thanks to a phony story it ran naming North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un the paper's "Sexiest Man Alive" for 2012.

The Chinese state-controlled paper the People Daily reprinted the story from the "U.S. website," cataloging what The Onion sarcastically cited as the leader's most intriguing qualities, including "his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame."

"Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile," The Onion offered.

People Daily dutifully re-reported every detail -- complete with a slideshow of the leader in macho poses -- without irony.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


North Korea’s First Lady Appears Pregnant

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Is a fourth generation Kim in sight for North Korea's ruling family?

In film footage released this week, first lady Ri Sol-Ju appeared for the first time in two months with a visible baby bump.  Ri and her husband Kim Jong Un were filmed together at a musical concert to mark the 60th anniversary of the Kim Il Sung Military University.

Kim is the grandson of the communist nation’s founder Kim Il Sung.  He took power following his father Kim Jong Il’s death in December.

Speculation had been swirling that Ri was either pregnant or put under house arrest for her excessive cheerful attitude in public.  The rumor was that the state elders preferred a more conservative wife for their young leader who is believed to be 29 or 30 years old, according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo.

Ri had been seen on North Korean media during the summer with her husband in state events.  Her sense of fashion -- colorful suits, polka-dot dresses, heels and even a Christian Dior bag -- and public display of affection, like holding hands or walking arm-in-arm with the leader, had surprised North Korean watchers.

But just when all were wondering where the ex-singer-turned-first lady had gone, she came back wearing an elegant knee-length cream jacket with matching strap covering her belly bump.  It may be her second child as there are rumors that the couple already have a son or daughter.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


North Korea’s Kim Going to Iran, But Which Kim?

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will travel to Iran next week, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.  But South Korean press suggests that Iran may have gotten its Kims mixed up.

A trip to Iran by North Korea’s young leader would be his first since taking power last December and would bring together two leaders who are cooperating on nuclear weapons programs.

The announced purpose of the trip will be to attend a summit of the Non-Aligned Nations (NAM).  Fars News Agency quoted Mohammad Reza Forqani, a NAM summit spokesman, telling the Tabnak news website that Kim’s visit will show “the two countries’ willingness to strengthen their interactions.”

But South Korean government officials suggest the report may be incorrect and Iran may have misunderstood who from North Korea is actually attending.  In North Korea, Kim Yong Nam, 84, holds the title of “president” of the Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium and has customarily attended overseas summits.  He has been representing North Korea at NAM summits held every few years.

“We are trying to verify at the moment,” said Lee Sun-Heun, foreign press spokesperson at South Korea’s Unifications Ministry.  

But later Wednesday, Yonhap News reported that Kim will not attend the NAM summit, quoting an unnamed Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry official who confirmed with the Iranian government.

NAM, founded in 1961, is a group of 120 states comprising 55 percent of the world population that do not consider themselves aligned with or against any major power bloc.  Its 16th summit is expecting 40 heads of state and is scheduled from Aug. 26 to 31.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


North Korea's Key to Olympic Medals: Prizes for Winners, Labor Camps for Losers

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/GettyImages(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korea's Olympic athletes are thrilling their countrymen with surprising success in winning medals and they are attributing their success to their Dear Leader Kim Jong Un.

But others, including former North Korean athletes who have defected, suggest the success of the country's small contingent of athletes at the games may be the result of a policy of training them from a very young age at specialized schools, backed up by rewards like cars and refrigerators for winners and the threat of labor camps for losers.

North Korea ranks 14th in the overall medal count, but fifth in terms of the number of gold medals with four. The country won two golds in men's weightlifting, one in women's weightlifting and one in women's judo. It also captured a bronze medal in women's weightlifting.

The communist nation has 56 athletes competing in 11 sports. Its hopes for additional medals in boxing, wrestling, diving, table tennis, judo and archery. The best Olympic result in the past was four gold medals and five bronzes in Barcelona 1992.

Joyful residents in North Korea gather to watch the games on huge outdoor screens and public places with television connection.

"After witnessing the gold medal at the Olympics, my heart is unutterably happy and my pride (in our nation) is growing," an unidentified woman said on state television news.

That pride is exactly what the country's new 28 year-old leader Kim Jong Un is looking for. He has taken control of the impoverished nation of 25 million after his father Kim Jong Il passed away last December. Decades of famine have left many North Koreans bitter and analysts say this Olympic Games' fever is a perfect opportunity to generate loyalty and devotion among his subjects.

Gold medalist Kim Un-Guk, who set an Olympic record in 62-kilogram weightlifting, dutifully attributed his triumph to their leader Kim Jong Un.

"I won first place because the shining Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un gave me power and courage," he told reporters in London.

An Kum-Ae, who won her gold in the women's judo 52-kilogram division, said, "I cannot be any happier than right now for I can give my gold medal to our great leader, Kim Jong Un."

Woo-Young Lee, a professor at University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, says, "Athletes in North Korean society are revered as elites and they are managed, trained and supported on a national level."

Hand-picked by the Communist Party's Sports Committee, the athletes are trained at very young ages and registered at specialized schools which provide "daily meals and spending money at times," said Gu-Kyeong Bang, a defector living in South Korea.

Bang was a student athlete in Taekwondo in the North. Training involved four hours of "ideological education" per week aimed at cultivating loyalty to the leader.

"They play with a different mind set," said another North Korean defector to the South, Kim Yo-Han. "An absolute loyalty towards the country and the leader is the core foundation of the North Korean athletes' sportsmanship."

Kim's father was a soccer coach and mother was a rhythmic gymnastics coach in the North.

Upon returning home, gold medal athletes like Kim Un-Guk and An Gum-Ae would be rewarded with handsome prize money, an apartment, a car, and additional perks like refrigerators and television sets.

But most of all, they will be rewarded with a huge jump in social status with the title of "hero" or "people's athlete."

But poor performances, especially losing to their archenemy nations like the United States or South Korea, have consequences. Rumors of athletes being sent directly to labor camps upon arriving home are not confirmed, but it is a common procedure to open "review meetings" after the sports events in which participants "assess" their own and each other's games, said Kim Yo-Han.

If during that process the person is determined "disloyal" to their Dear Leader, the athlete is likely to be expelled from the sports organization and at times sent to labor camps.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


VIDEO: Kim Jong Un and Wife Smile for the Crowds

Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The father fell in love with a dancer. Now the son has fallen in love with a singer.

The talk of Seoul today is about the 24-year-old ex-singer-turned-first lady of North Korea, Ri Sol-Ju, who was officially mentioned by North Korean TV on Wednesday as the “comrade wife to Marshall Kim Jong Un.”

A new video was aired today of the two walking arm-in-arm, a rare image, which analysts in Seoul say is aimed to make North Korea’s young leader appear “stable and fatherly.”

Kim, 28, rose to power earlier this year after the death of his father Kim Jong Il last December. His father never appeared in public with an official wife, but is known to have had four or five wives. Jong Un was born to Jong Il’s fourth wife, a celebrity dancer named Koh Young-Hee.

The new lady in the spotlight, Ri, is a popular singer who was spotted performing on stage numerous times in the past few years. There is still no confirmation on when they were married, but the two are known to have a child together, according to the National Information Service, South Korea’s intelligence agency.

Ri is from an average family, graduated from Geumsung 2 Middle School in Pyongyang and studied abroad in China majoring in vocal music. She visited South Korea in 2005 as a member of the North Korean cheerleading team for the Asian Athletics Championship held in Incheon, said the agency. Ri was one of the 90 cheerleaders back then who chanted “We are one!”

The cheerleaders wore Nike caps, danced with South Korean college students, and attended a dinner party with government officials. There’s speculation that she also might have participated in an inter-Korean teenagers’ event in 2003 to plant trees.

But what has attracted the most attention in Seoul today is her beauty and sense of fashion. She wore colorful green, burgundy, and yellow outfits, polka dot patterns, open-toe pumps, and even a chic brooch on one of her dresses. North Korean women usually wear their traditional costume, or monotone black or grey suits to public events.

“I was surprised because she was so up-to-date in fashion. My friends think she’s very pretty too,” said Hyun-Sun Kim, 22, a nurse.

“I think Ri Sol Ju possesses a classic traditional Korean beauty, a round face and clean skin,” said Edward Han, 52, a South Korean businessman. “And she’s got that image of an obedient wife which sure would be popular among the elders especially.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un Gets Married

Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korean state media ended weeks of speculation on Wednesday, announcing that the mystery woman who has accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on recent public events is his wife.

Referring to her as Ri Sol Ju, the station reported on the couple's visit to Neung Ra People's Resort during the 8 p.m. broadcast, identifying Ri by name for the first time, and identifying her as "wife" four times during the news report.

"As welcome news played, our Marshal Kim Jong Un and his wife comrade Ri Sol Ju came to the inauguration," the announcer read.  

Ri, wearing a black skirt with a burgundy jacket in black heels, was shown walking alongside Kim at the resort followed by Kim's uncle Jang Song-Taek, known to be the power behind the new leader.  In another scene, she was seen sitting on the right side of Kim while being briefed by officials.

Ri, a short-haired woman who appears to be in her 20s or early 30s, made her first public appearance with Kim on July 5, wearing a yellow polka dot dress and white jacket, during a concert in Pyongyang.

Since then, she's been seen walking next to the new leader on a visit to the mausoleum of his father and late leader Kim Il Sung.  On Tuesday, state television aired photos of the woman standing next to Kim during a visit to a kindergarten.  She was seen smiling, as Kim hugged and talked to children, with officials standing behind the couple.

Kim took over as leader of the North Korean regime in December following the death of his father, but like so many aspects of the reclusive country, little is known about the leader.  State media did not provide specifics on when the couple had married.  

Just last week, Kim was elevated to the top of the military rank as "marshall," a title held by both his late father and grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sun.  Since taking power, Kim has tried to be alter the country's austere and militaristic image.  At his inauguration, Jong Un proclaimed a new powerful nation in which people will be fed properly, hinting that he will focus on economic welfare.

The new leader, believed to be in his late twenties and educated in Switzerland, has ordered comparatively liberal policies such as allowing women to wear pants at public events and encouraging foreign restaurants to be opened.

He was seen earlier this year visiting a fastfood restaurant and commenting on the package design of hamburgers.

At the July 5 concert which showcased girl groups dressed in mini-skirts and tube top dresses, a surprise to the outside world given North Korea's past history of conservatism in women's wardrobes on state TV, Kim was spotted raising a thumb at the group singing a melody from an American movie Rocky.

The concert also featured Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Winnie the Pooh dancing on stage.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


North Korean Military Leader Ousted, Could Mark New Start with West

Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- The dismissal of North Korea's military chief might herald smoother relations with the West or it could just be that leader Kim Jong Un is consolidating power.

Either way, Korea's official Korean Central News Agency announced on Monday that Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho was relieved of his duties because of an undisclosed illness.

That means that Ri will no longer have the ear of Kim or preside over the politburo, Pyongyang's most powerful political body.

He was appointed to take charge of the North Korean Army when Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, still ruled the country.

Observers in South Korea speculate that even if Ri was ill, he probably wouldn't have lost his job.  They believe the vice marshal lost a power struggle with moderates in the military and that could signal Kim might be ready to open more diplomatic channels with the U.S. and other nations eager to see North Korea suspend its nuclear ambitions.

However, Kim has sounded more warlike in public during the past few months as worries grow that North Korea might launch a third underground atomic test in defiance of the West.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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