Home GRASP GRASP/Korea How a North Korean mountain and myth may have inspired murder

How a North Korean mountain and myth may have inspired murder


A desolate volcano could be the key to unraveling the sudden, mysterious death of Kim Jong Nam
South Korea’s spy agency believes that Kim Jong Nam was assassinated this week in a Malaysian airport as part of a five-year plot by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to kill a brother he reportedly never met. If this is right, the motive likely has more to do with their shared bloodlines — and that volcano — than any specific transgression. Here’s why: The volcano — Mount Paektu, which is topped with a deep crater lake — is at the heart of North Korea’s foundation myth, and is used to legitimize the Kim family’s three generations of power. Paektu is emblazoned on the country’s national emblem and lends its name to everything from rockets to power stations to, occasionally, the country itself. Crucially, it serves as a sort-of geographic incarnation of the Kim brothers’ late grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the most important person in North Korean history. Kim Il Sung saved the Korean Peninsula, according to the official Pyongyang narrative, with daring guerrilla raids against Japanese invaders from his base on the slopes of Paektu.

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