When it became clear in 2009 that Kim Jong Un was being groomed to be the leader of North Korea, Jung Pak was a new analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. Her job was to analyze this then little-known young man who would take over a nuclear-armed country and keep the highest levels of the U.S. government informed of the driving forces behind North Korea’s behavior and the subsequent implications for U.S. national security.
Now a senior fellow in the Center for East Asia Policy Studies and holder of the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies, Jung Pak traces and explains Kim’s ascent to the world stage in her new book “Becoming Kim Jong Un,” which draws on her deep knowledge and experience in the U.S. intelligence community. In piecing together Kim’s wholly unique life, Pak argues that his personality, perceptions, and preferences matter. As the North Korean nuclear threat grows, Pak offers insights on the character and motivations of North Korea’s enigmatic dictator.
On April 28, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies hosted Pak and her former colleague at the CIA, Sue Mi Terry, for a fascinating conversation about the key findings of the book and their experiences working on what the CIA has called the “hardest of the hard targets.”