In terms of defending the homeland from Kim Jong-un, President Trump’s risk calculus is spot-on.
The portrayals of both North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. president Donald Trump as bombastic egoists reacting emotionally seem to have become hackneyed as tensions continue to rise on the Korean Peninsula. But reducing the sophomoric rhetoric between the two men to mere chauvinistic posturing fails to reveal the genius underlying the Trump administration’s pressure campaign.
President Trump’s tweets, while drawing the ire of both sides of the aisle, shatter the North Korean image of Kim Jong-un and force him to react from a position of weakness on terms dictated by the United States. To understand why Trump’s rhetoric is so effective, one must consider the president’s target audience.
Kim Jong-un spent his early life in Switzerland, and was thrust into the spotlight prematurely due both to his father’s death and to the various inadequacies and indiscretions rendering his two elder brothers unfit to lead. To compensate for the twentysomething’s inexperience and lack of notoriety, North Korean officials began a relentless campaign to create the supreme myth of their new supreme leader. In an effort to reverse the growing resentment towards senior leaders brought on by his father’s reclusiveness and the memory of the terrible famine of the 1990s, through which the current generation came of age, Kim Jong-un was modeled as the reincarnation of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung.