Precious little is known about the psychology of Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea. He reportedly attended school in Switzerland, under a pseudonym, while accompanied by an older student who served as his bodyguard.
Those who purport to have known him well during his education have described him as talented at mathematics and basketball, extremely competitive on the court and a great admirer of American basketball stars. He supposedly spent many hours on detailed pencil drawings of his favorites.
He was, reportedly, tremendously devoted to his father and extremely patriotic. He is, reportedly, married and the father of one or more children. He is said to be less averse to some elements of Western pop culture than his predecessors. That’s not a whole lot to go on.
I think there’s a reason why not much is known about Kim: Not much exists that defines him as an individual, rather than as the symbol and embodiment of the dynastic dictators, including his father and grandfather, who have ruled North Korea for many decades. In fact, Kim is said to be a carbon copy of his father, in body type and personality type.
My educated guess—informed by decades listening to a myriad of clients, including political leaders, gang leaders and organized crime figures—is that Kim was prevented from becoming a complete individual by being born into such a powerful, all-consuming family structure.
I have not, of course, interviewed Kim. But my educated guess—informed by decades listening to a myriad of clients, including political leaders, gang leaders and organized crime figures—is that Kim was prevented from becoming a complete individual by being born into such a powerful, all-consuming family structure. And those whose lives are commandeered by the legacies of others and who, therefore, lose the opportunity to express their real emotions and core interests, do have some things in common.
They are, first of all, filled with desperation and rage and may project it onto others, in irrational ways. The anger of a child, adolescent, teenager and young adult, whose real persona is “executed,” in favor of creating a clone of his dictator father, may know no bounds.
That person, in adulthood, may execute thousands of others, as Kim has reportedly done, rather than reflect upon and truly register his own psychological annihilation. And that person’s rage could even become manifest as an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, coupled with raw hostility toward other nations.
It may seem astounding to think that one human being, suffocated psychologically, could threaten the entire world with his internal fury bent 180 degrees and then released from the cauldron of his psyche, but that is Hitler’s story, too.
Is Kim Jong Un all bluster? Is the North Korean quest for nuclear arms and the means to deliver them to North America just a ploy to gain more leverage in foreign affairs?
I wouldn’t bet on that. The rage of a boy who may have dreamed of being a basketball player, or an artist, and became the living embodiment of his father, against his will, could project that death upon millions.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.