The identity of the mysterious man in the photos of the North Korean dictator has been revealed
Asia Times Journalists have noticed something odd about North Korea’s first leader: Kim Jong-un has recently become confident in large crowds, even allowing his own people to touch or hug him. Kim Jong-un now participates in public events almost weekly, and in her recordings, eared owners would have noticed at least one similarity. Discreetly but closely behind the captain, watching vigilantly for his physical well-being, always the same mysterious men. But who are these bodyguards and how did they get their jobs? And who is the man who has been present in the official photos of the leader for decades?
According to American and South Korean experts who monitor North Korea, the stocky, hooded, middle-aged man on the left side of the photo is General Kim Chol-gyu. The man, dubbed “grandfather” by an American analyst, is officially the head of the bodyguard department of the State Affairs Commission and is said to have been responsible for the security of North Korean leaders since the Kim Jong era. I.
Those official North Korean photos and videos, taken when Kim Jong Il was much older, provide insight into how North Korea’s intelligence service, which – like the current president in America – protects the leader, operates. But it also says a lot about the driver’s personal sense of safety.
According to the available information, the grandfather started his bodyguard career with Kim Jong Il in 2008.
In addition to Kim Jong-un, it is likely that he already controls a security division divided into three levels.
Third level: the outer ring
The third level refers to the outer ring of protection, and these bodyguards often (but not always) wear military or armed uniforms, sometimes wear helmets, and usually have automatic weapons. They are placed at a certain distance from the driver and look out, observing the wider environment.
This can also be seen in the image below:
Level Two: They track the driver’s movements
The bodyguards who work at the second level are already adapting to Kim Jong-un’s moves. In some cases, this protection unit consists of soldiers equipped with automatic weapons, but there are also cases where they wear field uniforms and field hats and carry pistols. These bodyguards watch for suspicious signs behind, on the side and in front of the driver. This group is less visible in still photos, but occasionally appears in documentaries about the leader.
The first level: personal security
The first floor is staffed by Kim Jong-un’s bodyguards, who always stay close to the leader and often wear field military fatigues.
On certain occasions, Kim is accompanied by bodyguards in plain clothes, especially when he meets foreign leaders or travels abroad.
They can be identified either by their clothing – a business suit, shirt, and matching striped tie – or by their demeanor, posture, and the fact that they outshine most of the people in the picture.
It is likely that the grandfather will be present in all public appearances of the leader, and if Kim Jong-un is in a multi-room building, he is the one who goes to inspect the rooms that the leader will enter during his visit.
It seems like the bodyguards are always trying to avoid getting caught by anyone (eg, by standing behind someone important). But the situation is different in the case of film recordings. Bodyguards cannot hide on them, but not after, as they are not cut down. Thus, clips extracted from such videos provide a real, revealing view of their guarding and protection work.
I was abroad
If Kim Jong-un attends an outdoor event, the Level Two and Level One bodyguards are always on the move. When Kim visits a military installation, for example, one bodyguard moves directly behind or directly in front of him, while other bodyguards are stationed along the front lines of the assembled soldiers.
behind the walls
However, when the dictator appears indoors or in public, one or two bodyguards ride in front of the leader, scan every room in the building, and then lean against a wall when Kim enters. Finally, there are bodyguards behind Kim, especially at military installations and on warships.
Immediately after Kim Jong-un took power in late 2011, photos taken at the time show bodyguards walking close to him, as if he needed more intense protection in his new role.
But more than a decade later, and from what can be seen in photos and videos, Kim seems to have grown quite confident, trusting in the loyalty of those charged with his security and the authority he wields among the North Korean people.