Kim Jong-un's 'Faceless' Companion Intrigues Boffins

  • By Kim Myong-song

    March 21, 2023 13:11

    Mystery surrounds a man in military uniform who was pictured in the state media next to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as he watched a drill simulating a tactical nuclear attack on Monday. 
    Unprecedentedly, the man's face has been pixelated out, sending observers into a frenzy of speculation. 
    Judging by his uniform, the man is a two-star army general. To make the mystery complete, he is wearing sunglasses and a face mask.
    An intelligence source here offered little illumination. "He's presumed to be an official whose identity is being kept secret like the commander of a tactical nuclear operations unit," the source speculated. 
    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center) watches a military drill with his daughter and military officials, including a man (far right) whose face is pixelated out, in this photo from the [North] Korean Central News Agency on Monday.
    State media also released a list of people who attended the drill. They include Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam, the commander-in-chief of the tactical nuclear operations unit, commanders of missile units on the eastern and western fronts, senior officials of the Workers Party Central Committee, senior officers at the Missile General Bureau, and officials at a nuclear weapons research center. 
    Most of these are known faces, but the mystery man could be the commander of the tactical nuclear operations unit or the chief of the Missile General Bureau.
    That the tactical nuclear unit exists first became known in September and October last year, when Kim supervised a military drill carried out in response to joint South Korea-U.S. exercises.
    The pixelation seems to be a "precautionary measure to protect the identity of senior officers at the tactical nuclear operations unit," said Kwak Gil-sop, a former National Intelligence Service officer. "It's also an effective way of preventing someone from becoming a sanctions target."   
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