An interview with Lee Young-Guk, a bodyguard for ten years to the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, provides a rare look into the brainwashing and fear surrounding the dictator revered as a god - and indicates current leader Kim Jong-Un may be even worse.
Speaking to CNN in Seoul, Lee said before guarding Kim Jong-Il during a period before he took control from his father Kim Il-Sung, he had to endure unusual training such as have slabs of granite smashed on his chest with a mallet and breaking stacked tiles with his head.
"It's tough training. But why do it? It's to build up loyalty. A handgun won't win a war and Taekwondo serves nothing but the spirit, but it creates loyalty," said Lee.
But aside from the Taekwondo martial arts and weapons training, he said a large part of his training to guard Kim was ideological brainwashing. Lee says that the training brainwashed him into believing Kim was a god, and that he only existed to serve and protect him.
Having guarded Kim Jong-Il for over ten years, Lee noted how he ruled with an iron fist, and extracted ultimate loyalty through constant fear.
"When Kim Jong-Il would arrive in his vehicle, 60- to 70-year old advisers would run away and throw themselves onto the grass. They had dust on their clothes but they wanted to hide from him," Lee revealed. "They are scared because even when he was happy he would be rude and could chop off their heads."
Illustrating the level of cruelty, Lee recalls a senior official who once used Kim's private elevator and ashtray - he was sent to a concentration camp where he died.
However, Kim Jong-Il's cruelty may be insignificant in comparison to his son, Kim Jong-Un, who currently rules the Asian nation.
"Kim Jong-Un ended up killing his uncle, who even Kim Jong-Il could not kill," noted Lee. "As power was handed down to the third generation, it became crueler. Kim Jong-Un has created loyalty, but it is fake and based on fear."
The current North Korean dictator has threatened his southern neighbor and Japan with nuclear war, and just last month artillery fire broke out over the tense border.
Lee tried to escape North Korea in 1994, but after being caught he was thrown into the brutal Yodok political camp where he suffered starvation and torture for five years.
However, he eventually managed to escape from the camp and make it to South Korea, becoming one of an estimated 25,000 defectors.
In South Korea, Lee has worked as a duck farmer, written a book about his life in North Korea, and toured as a media pundit relating his experiences. His desire to tell the world about what he had seen helped him survive the camp, according to Lee.
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