DPRK? We haven't a clue.


According to reports yesterday, a Korean farmer has just defected north of the border. Yes, that’s right-north. The BBC says the report by North Korea’s state news agency has yet to be confirmed by South Korean authorities, who are now looking into it.

Coincidentally, on the same day, US think tank The Brookings Institution was hosting an event featuring Kim Kwang-jin, a former state insurance executive in North Korea who defected south in 2003. At the event, Kim said he thought it unlikely the expected hereditary succession from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to one of his sons would work (Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is currently seen as most likely to take over).

But what is most interesting here is that an insurance executive who left the country six years ago is being tapped by a leading think tank for his knowledge of the succession. The fact that he is getting a serious audience demonstrates again how little we actually know about the inner workings of the country and the folly of taking anything for granted.

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In fact Michael Breen, a Seoul-based analyst and author of ‘Kim Jong-il: North Korea’s Dear Leader,’ put it best when I chatted with him a few months back about what we really know about Kim Jong-un. ‘We actually know zero about this guy,’ he said.

At least he’s honest.

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