It’s 10 years since an untested 27-year-old took power in North Korea and in that time few world leaders have generated as many headlines. But what has it been like living under Kim Jong-un?
The sound of wailing filled the streets of Pyongyang.
Students in their school uniforms fell to their knees and appeared inconsolable. Women were pictured clutching their hearts in despair.
The tightly controlled North Korean state media had announced that Kim Jong-il, their “dear leader”, had died at the age of 69. It was 19 December 2011.
Around the world, Korean analysts rushed to their desks to pull out their files on one man.
At the age of just 27, he was the so-called Great Successor. But few thought he would succeed at anything. How could a society which rewards age and experience be ruled by someone who had neither?
Many predicted a military coup or a takeover by North Korean elites. But the world underestimated the young dictator. Kim Jong-un has not only cemented his position, but he has also ushered in a new era called “Kim Jong-unison”.
Kim Jong-un and a state-sanctioned personality cult
He began with a purge of his rivals and hundreds of executions and then turned his attention to foreign affairs. Four nuclear tests, 100 ballistic missiles fired, and the international spotlight at talks with the US president.
But his relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons has come at a cost. North Korea is now in crisis, poorer and more isolated than when he took power.
So what has it been like to live under him?
Ten North Korean defectors – including one of his top diplomats – reflect on 10 years of Kim Jong-un.
A new start
Student Kim Geum-you did something that could have got him shot the day Kim Jong-un’s father died. He threw a party.
“That was so dangerous. But we were so happy at the time,” he says.
For him, a young new leader, notably one who loved skiing and basketball, raised the prospect of fresh ideas and of change.
“We had expectations about Kim Jong Un. He had studied abroad in Europe, so maybe he would think in the same way as us,” he said.