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Home / World / Kim understands: In the US efforts to profile the mysterious North Korean leader

Kim understands: In the US efforts to profile the mysterious North Korean leader

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US intelligence experts attempt to profile Kim Jong Un to give President Donald Trump a competitive advantage at one of the most momentous peaks since the Cold War, but face a major challenge A mysterious North Korean ruler of which few people know.

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaking at the third plenary session of the Seventh Central Committee of the Korean Workers' Party (WPK) on this photo published by the North Korean news agency KCNA in Pyongyang April 20, 201
8. REUTERS / KCNA / File Photo

After a long tradition of arming US presidents with political and psychological dossiers of foreign leaders before critical negotiations, government analysts gather every new piece of information they can find about Kim and make adjustments to previous assessments of what's ticking him US officials to Reuters.

They will rely in part on the impressions of CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who just a few weeks ago became the first Trump administration official to meet Kim. Pompeo, Trump's desire to become Secretary of State, came back from Pyongyang and privately described the young North Korean leader as "a smart guy doing his homework" for the meetings, a US official said, Pompeo's personal view of Kim for the first Times.

The profile will also include information collected in earlier debriefings from others who interacted with Kim, including former NBA star Dennis Rodman, Kim's former classmates at a Swiss boarding school, and South Korean envoy, other US officials said the anonymity.

All this will be used to update the secret government's file on Kim's behavior, motives, personality and leadership style so that Trump and his helpers develop a strategy for dealing with Kim at the anticipated first meeting between the US and the North can Korean leaders.

A White House official declined to confirm any details about Kim's efforts to better understand except to say, "There is a whole host of government efforts to prepare for the presidential summit" early June.

Nonetheless, Kim's direct knowledge remains limited – a "black box," a US official familiar with profiling efforts, especially given the scarcity of local spies and informants and the difficulties of cyber espionage in a country where internet usage is minimal.

When Kim came to power for the first time, the CIA predicted Kim's reign would be short-lived. Seven years later, this prediction was dropped and he is now seen as a wise and ruthless leader. Lately, many US experts have been surprised by the way Kim turned away from his saber-rattling action to build a nuclear missile arsenal for diplomatic missions.


The emerging US consensus on Kim is similar to what many external experts have publicly closed. He is seen as a "rational actor," the US officials said – not the "total nut job" that Trump once branded him. He longs for an international format, but his main objective is the "survival of the regime" and the continuation of his family dynasty, suggesting that it will be hard for him to agree to full nuclear disarmament, officials said.

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C), his wife Ri Sol-Ju (L) and former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman clap during an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang in this undated image of the North Korean KCNA REUTERS / KCNA / File photo

He is ruthless enough to have executed relatives, but now he feels safe enough to play on Trump, they said. In terms of personality, he is more like his charismatic grandfather, Kim Il Sung, than his rather camera-awesome dad.

His posting to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, and a rare appearance by his wife when South Korean ambassadors visited in March, demonstrate his efforts to personalize his leadership overseas.

Shielded by North Korea's extreme opacity, Kim has put a number of special profiling issues to US spy agencies. US Coordinator Dan Coats said in a speech earlier this month that the North Korean leadership is "one of the hardest parts of information gathering."

U.S. At his historic summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday, experts will study Kim's words and body language closely.

U.S. Intelligence analysts have spent years investigating Kim's family history, speeches, photos, and videos, and they are now closely analyzing the images and reports from his recent high-level meetings with South Korean and Chinese officials.

U.S. The authorities have also interviewed North Korean defectors and even resorted to second-hand sources, such as the memoirs of a Japanese sushi chef who once worked for the Kim family, several officials and experts said.

Under pressure to put together the Kim profile, the US officials said another challenge was to determine how much information Trump – known for having little patience for detailed briefings or long documents – and him then persuade him not only to act instinctively from the gut, as he often does with foreign leaders.

Employees are expected to limit their presentation to an abridged version accompanied by photos, maps, drawings, and videos.

It will not be the first time that intelligence officials rely on visual aids to help them stay up to date on North Korea.

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At the beginning of his tenure, Trump was shown a full-scale model of North Korea's extensive nuclear bomb test site with a detachable pinnacle and a miniature Statue of Liberty so that he could grasp the size of the facility said two US -Officer.

A White House official declined to comment on this episode.

Trump's defenders say he is adept at visually capturing facts. "Because of his successful construction career, he has been able to study architectural renderings and floor plans very well, so he is a visual learner and it works well for him," said the White House official.


For decades, US governments have been ordering profiles of foreign leaders, especially those of opponents such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and Fidel Castro in Cuba. Many other governments carry out similar studies.

Such assessments, which had their origins in the efforts of the US government to better understand German Adolf Hitler, were sometimes considered helpful to US politicians.

Former President Jimmy Carter wrote in his memoir "Keeping Faith" that detailed profiles of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat "made rich dividends" in achieving a 1978 peace agreement.

But the practice "Know Your Enemy" was far from certain.

For example, Kim's initial unedited ratings, compiled shortly after he took power in 2011, indicated that he may have been too inexperienced to survive internal struggles, but if he did, he would probably be more likely to interested in reforming North Korea's economy to pursue nuclear weapons.

"It's never perfect," affirmed Jerrold Post, a psychiatrist who founded the CIA's Center for the Study of Political Personality and profiled both Kim and his father. "But we have to do our best to understand how Kim sees the world."

Post, now in a private psychiatric practice in Maryland, said he was recently consulted by a Trump consultant who was to inform the president. He declined to explain what advice he gave.

"We all listen to forensic psychiatrists in the intelligence community," said Wendy Sherman, a former US negotiator from North Korea, who traveled to Pyongyang with her then Foreign Minister Madeleine Albright in 2000 to meet Kim's father, Kim Jong Il ,

But she suggested that personal contact would be the best way to take the measure of a North Korean leader. "I'm sure Mike Pompeo, who was on a secret service team, came back with lots of useful information," she told Reuters.

Additional coverage of Soyoung Kim in Seoul, written by Matt Spetalnick; Arrangement of Ross Colvin

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