North Korea’s Central News Agency has announced that the largest gathering of the country's main political party will take place September 28. The rare gathering is leading intelligence analysts to believe that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may name his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, as his heir apparent — if not the next leader of North Korea altogether.
While the analysts were expecting such an announcement, what they don’t know is even more telling. Very little is known about Kim Jong Un, and few even know what he looks like.
In a report this month on National Public Radio, North Korea analyst Ken Gause gave an overview of the man known across the Demilitarized Zone as the “Brilliant Comrade.” Gause said that some details were provided by a book written under a pseudonym by — of all people — Kim Jong Il’s sushi chef. The book's title is “I was Kim Jong Il’s Cook.” Here are some details:
* Kim Jong Un is the son of a dancer who is either the “Dear Leader’s” third wife or his consort.
* He is approximately 27 or 28 years of age.
* He may have been educated at an English-speaking Swiss boarding school.
* Classmates say he likes skiing, Jean-Claude Van Damme films and Michael Jordan.
* He graduated from a North Korean military academy named for his grandfather.
* He became the Dear Leader’s No. 1 choice when his older brother, Kim Jong Nam, tried to sneak a trip to Tokyo Disneyland using a forged passport.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger will be awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House today. Etchberger was killed 42 years ago on a Laotian mountaintop.
His son Cory Etchberger will attend the White House ceremony. He learned of his father’s death as a child in 1968, but he never knew the extent of his heroism until about six years ago, when Richard Etchberger’s fateful mission was declassified.
“I was stunned,” he told CNN’s Jeanne Meserve.
Etchberger was part of a team of covert military personnel posing as civilians in Laos. They were running a top-secret radar installation high on a cliff when the North Vietnamese attacked.
A technician who knew little of combat, Etchberger was able to fend off the enemy as his colleagues boarded a CIA-piloted helicopter. They got on safely, but after Etchberger boarded, he was fatally wounded.
“If [Richard] hadn't gotten us out of there, we would have ended up dead or POWs,” John Daniel, a survivor of the fight who will also will attend the medal ceremony, told the Ocala Star-Banner.
“It gives me cold chills even now to think he will get the Medal of Honor; it's the ultimate. … I think he should get a 55-gallon drum full of medals,” Daniel said.
The presidents of Iran and Venezuela have become something of a highlight at the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly, which started yesterday. The two men use the bully pulpit in New York to express their anger, largely aimed at the U.S. and Israel. Meanwhile, Iran seems to have developed a track record of human rights abuse allegations and a suspect nuclear program. Both leaders will address the U.N. today. Here are some memorable quotes from years past:
* Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 2005, in a comment directed at the United States:
"Today, the most serious challenge is that the culprits are arrogating to themselves the role of the prosecutor. Even more dangerous is that certain parties relying on their power and wealth try to impose a climate of intimidation and injustice over the world make bullying, while through their huge media resources portray themselves as defenders of freedom, democracy and human rights.
* Ahmadinejad, in 2010, in a comment directed initially at Israel, then at the U.S., causing many U.N. diplomats to walk out of the Assembly:
“To attack [Palestine and Iraq] with all types of arms — and at times, even prohibited weapons! … How can you speak of friendship and solidarity with other nations while you expand your military bases in different parts of the world?
* Hugo Chavez, in 2006, directed to then-President George W. Bush, who had addressed the U.N. the day before:
"The devil came here yesterday. And it smells of sulfur still today."
* Chavez, in 2009, speaking at the U.N. lectern, after Bush had left the presidency:
"It doesn't smell like sulfur anymore."