December 16, 2016
Kim Jong Un Makes It To Five Years As North Korea's Leader, Defying Skepticism

North Korean loyalists have given Kim Jong Un his time in the spotlight and are interested in keeping a regime that is one of the most repressive in the world just as it is.

It is due to their support that Kim is able to celebrate his fifth anniversary as leader of North Korea, which stands to extend the monarchy rooted in communism into its 71st year. The Kim regime has ruled the country since the final days of World War II. At that point Kim Il Sung was appointed by Joseph Stalin to run North Korea as a client state to the Soviets. It was his son, Kim Jong Il, who took over the reign for the Kim Dynasty and ruled for 17 years until his death five years ago.

Kim Jong Un took the helm from his father, anointed as "The Great Successor," continuing the family name that has been deified despite 20 million or so North Koreans struggling to survive on the scant food supplies provided.

Although Kim Jong Un had been perceived by individuals from abroad with an interest in the nation as a leader who would cause the demise of the system, five years later, the system has not only held together, but is actually quite solid. The Washington Post notes the details that indicate Kim has been successful in his initiatives for his nation, despite how they are viewed by the rest of the world.

"The economy has been growing, if not booming. It has functioning nuclear weapons and is making rapid progress toward being able to deliver them to the continental United States. Kim has given his closest ally, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the cold shoulder and suffered little for it. He has threatened to attack the United States and has actually attacked South Korea, but the sanctions imposed as punishment have fallen well short of fatal."
As far as dictators go, Kim is apparently playing the role famously. Experts state that there is no reason to believe that the leader is going anywhere soon, noting that if a dictator makes it past two years, they typically continue a long rule and pass away of natural causes in old age, as Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, who is a political scientist at New York University and wrote The Dictator's Handbook, states.
"He has been a good dictator in the sense that he has behaved in accordance with the rules... He has governed through corruption and rent-seeking and keeping the population miserable."
Other experts on North Korea, including Ken Gause of the research company CNA, agrees that Kim has firm control for the time being and seems to be growing more and more comfortable while using his understanding of his role to give orders and perfect the sophisticated art of manipulation.
"You have a leader who is becoming more comfortable in his own skin and is able to delegate and manipulate the levers of power in a much more sophisticated way would say he is still working on building and solidifying his power. But for all intents and purposes, he is the leader in every sense of the word."
His power and ability to maintain his position is entirely reliant on a small group which involve a few hundred military officials and the elite money-makers of the nation who have an invested interest in keeping Kim Jong Un in control. He reportedly put more of his own core supporters in positions of authority this past May when congress convened. Regimes such as North Korea's are able to remain intact due to paying military and the elite to keep them happy, while keeping the masses in servitude.

"He's paying the people who keep him in office enough so they won't defect to anyone else," Bueno de Mesquita said. "He needs to keep the loyalists loyal."

[Featured Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]