Kim Jong Nam death: murder trial begins in Malaysia

Two women accused of assassinating Kim Jong Un’s half-brother claim they were told it was a TV prank

Kim Jong Nam
Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong is escorted by armed Malaysian police after a hearing last year
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Kim Jong-un's hair: how the world reacted to his new look

20 February

Kim Jong-un has unveiled a new haircut at a Politburo meeting in Pyongyang to the amusement of many North Korea watchers.

Vox said his hair resembled "a small, dormant woodland creature". Its journalists argued that the new haircut raised a number of important questions for those following North Korean politics, including: "Is it intended to signify that North Korea, like Kim Jong-un's hair, is reaching new heights and cannot be stopped by gravity or any other natural force?"

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New York Magazine took a different angle, praising him for daring to experiment with a new look. "He paired the style with barely there brows shaved to end just over his pupils, a brave departure from the current full eyebrow trend," it said.

Meanwhile, CNN's prominent coverage of the leader's new "trapezoidal power haircut" bemused some journalists.

Right now CNN is running a story about Kim Jong Un's new haircut under a banner that says: "developing story."— Timothy Aeppel (@TimAeppel) February 19, 2015

The New York Daily News described the haircut as "barbarous ", while People magazine said the dictator may have been channelling Will Smith with the 1990s style flat top haircut. However, it was quick to conclude that "Smith wore it better".

The rest of the internet reacted in predicable fashion:

High brow: A year apart - Kim Jong Un in early 2014 and now #NorthKorea— Frank Feinśtein (@frankfeinstein) February 19, 2015

Kim Jong Un#NumberOneFan of @DJPaulyD— Springheel Jack (@Springh33lJack) February 19, 2015

Via @reddit: How would Obama look in a Kim Jong-un haircut— Sachin Kalbag (@SachinKalbag) February 20, 2015

The Joey Essex haircut goes drastically wrong as it reaches North Korea— Adam Taylor (@mradamtaylor) February 19, 2015

Kim Jong-un: inside leader's luxury private jet

16 February

North Korea has released images showing Kim Jong-un and top army officials in talks on his luxury private jet.

The North Korean leader and his team were conducting an aerial tour of a new building project in Pyongyang that Kim said "showcases the level of the Korean people’s civilisation and the mental power of the army and people."


Kim reportedly enjoys "a luxury lifestyle of yachts, parties and gourmet food – in stark contrast to the poverty prevalent among his 25 million people," according to the South China Morning Post.

The young leader is also thought to have a passion for air travel, unlike his father Kim Jong-il, who allegedly hated flying and would only travel abroad by train.


The government-run North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) "often releases strange or bizarre photo shoots of the North Korean leadership," says the Daily Telegraph.

"Past photos have shown Kim being mobbed by female farm workers or beaming on a roller coaster at Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground," the newspaper says.

However, some analysts question the authenticity of such photos that aim to boost the image of the country's Supreme Leader.

Kim Jong-un 'to visit Russia' in first international state visit

28 January

Kim Jong-un has accepted an invitation to attend a diplomatic event in Moscow in May, the Kremlin has told South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

If the foreign visit goes ahead, it would mark first time Kim Jong-un has travelled abroad since he assumed power in 2011.

The event in Moscow will celebrate the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War and is one of the most significant events in the Russian military and political calendar.

"About 20 state leaders have confirmed their attendance, and the North Korean leader is among them," said a Kremlin source.

However, Kim Jong-un is not mentioned by name, and some believe this could instead be referring to Kim Yong-nam who is the current Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and normally represents North Korea at foreign events.

"If Kim Jong-un did choose to visit Moscow ahead of Beijing, the decision would be seen as significant - and as a snub to Chinese President Xi Jinping," the BBC reports.

Kim's father Kim Jong-il visited Russia once shortly before his death, but made several trips to China, which was then seen as a Pyongyang's strongest ally.

Last year, Russia and China vetoed a UN proposal to recommend North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, describing the move as politically motivated. However, in 2013, China backed a resolution to strengthen sanctions against North Korea after several nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea's diplomatic relationship with China has deteriorated further since then. Last year, a retired Chinese general with strong ties to the ruling Communist Party launched a scathing attack on the country. "China has cleared up the DPRK's [North Korea's] mess too many times," wrote General Wang Hongguang in the Global Times newspaper."But it doesn't have to in the future."

Earlier this month, a North Korean defector killed four people after crossing the border into China, prompting Beijing to lodge an official complaint.

"As far as China is concerned, there has to be a show of a pledge by North Korea for denuclearisation before a [joint] summit is possible," Cheong Seong-chang from South Korea's Sejong Institute told Reuters. "It's hard to see Kim Jong-Un doing that now."

Kim Jong-un video game cancelled after hack attack

14 January

A US video game starring North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un as the central character has been cancelled after a hack attack derailed the project.

The satirical game, Glorious Leader!, had attracted $17,000 through the crowd-funding site KickStarter, but has now been abandoned after the developers were hacked just before Christmas. The game would have seen players take on the role of Kim Jong-un and single-handedly fight the US army.

The developers, Money Horse Games, have said it is unlikely that the attack was the work of the North Korean government. In an update soon after the hack on its KickStarter page, the group said: "We are sure that this is a hoax perpetrated by amateurs. We have no reason to believe that this was done by the GOP [the 'Guardians of Peace' who attacked Sony] or anyone affiliated with North Korea. It appears to be an opportunistic copycat, as we have been the target of hacking attempts in the past."

The FBI has blamed North Korea for the attack on Sony Pictures in November, which led to the early release of a number of films and publication of embarrassing private correspondence and personal data.

But whoever was responsible for the attack on Money Horse Games did enough damage to bring the project to a premature close.

"The hackers destroyed data pertaining to Glorious Leader! and other projects we had in development and locked us out of our own computers and website," the developers wrote in another recent update. "The timing couldn't have been worse as it hampered our ability to attend to the Kickstarter project... Between the hacking and other threats, we think it is time to reevaluate our commitment to Glorious Leader! We thank our fans and supporters, and we are sorry to let you down."

The hack wasn't the only challenge the project was facing, ArsTechnica notes. Money Horse Games had also fallen well short of its fundraising goal of $55,000 and would have required a significant last-minute boost to reach its target.

The team admitted to having made "mistakes in our pledge levels and rewards" and said that the failure to reach the funding targets had played a role in the game's demise, "so it's unclear if the game would have seen release in any case", says ArsTechnica.

Kim Jong-un's aunt 'died during phone rant with leader'

01 December

Kim Jong-un's aunt died of a stroke during a "heated" telephone row with the North Korean dictator over the execution of her husband, according to a senior defector.

Kang Myung-do, who is a son-in-law of a former North Korean prime minister, told CNN that 68-year-old Kim Kyung-hui was admitted to a hospital where she later died.

He says she had collapsed while she was arguing on the phone with her nephew aboutthe execution of her husband, Jang Sang-thaek. He had been accused of crimes against the state and subsequently executed by firing squad.

Mystery has surrounded the whereabouts of Kim Kyung-hui, who has not been seen in public since September 2013. Several reports have suggested that she is ill.

Kang says her fate has never been revealed by the regime because the government does not want the public to link her death with the execution of Jang.

Kim had endured a torrid life, undergoing surgery for cancer in Moscow and reportedly suffering from diabetes, alcoholism and depression. Her daughter committed suicide in Paris in September 2006 after she was refused permission to marry a foreign national.

"There have been a lot of rumours about her death or hospitalisation in the media here, but it's impossible to know for sure what has happened to her," Daniel Pinkston, an analyst with The International Crisis Group in Seoul, told the Daily Telegraph.

Kim Jong-un's sister assumes senior leadership role

27 November

Kim Jong-un's younger sister has been given a senior role in the country's ruling party, North Korean state media has revealed.

Kim Yo-jong, believed to be 26, had already been a Workers Party official but has now assumed the important role of vice director of a department within the powerful Central Committee, Reuters reports.

Like much else in the secretive state, little is known about Kim Yo-jong, but she is believed to be extremely close to her brother. She is the only other member of the Kim family known to have an official role in the ruling party after a series of purges.

Kim Yo-jong reportedly moved closer to the centre of power following the disappearance of her aunt Kim Kyong-hui, who was the most powerful woman in Pyongyang and a three star general.

She has not been seen in public since her husband Jang Song-thaek was executed after being found guilty of treason.

Earlier this year, Kim's prolonged absence from the political arena led North Korean defectors to suggest that his sister may have been running the country while he recovered from a leg injury, CNN reports.

Some analysts have suggested that she may continue to gain power within the ruling party, but others are more sceptical.

"Her age and lack of experience will remain a serious concern" to top officials in Pyongyang, Kang Mi-jin writes for The Guardian.

Kim Jong-un responsible for 'massive' human rights atrocities

13 November

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un can be held accountable for "massive" human rights abuses, a UN investigator has said.

The comments made by Marzuki Darusman, the special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, are "some of the strongest yet" from UN officials, according to Reuters.

In February, the organisation published a report which concluded that North Korean officials, possibly including Kim himself, should face international justice for crimes comparable to "Nazi era atrocities". These include systematic torture, starvation and killings.

The report "was able to point unequivocally to the responsibility and the culpability (for) these massive human rights violations to a single source of policy decision-making in the country", said Darusman.

"And therefore it’s only now that we are in the position to in fact directly put culpability on the supreme leader for these massive human rights violations."

A draft resolution by the EU and Japan is pushing for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court. It does not, however, name Kim directly.

The resolution is expected to be presented to the General Assembly committee within the next week and if approved, will be voted on within the next month. However, analysts warn that it could be vetoed by China, North Korea's firm supporter.

The UN report has been dismissed by North Korean officials who have labelled it a western plot to discredit the nation.

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