1. The Supreme Guard Command
Kim Jong Un’s Supreme Guard Command goes by many names. It’s also known as Unit 963, the Escourt Bureau, Guard Command, Guard Bureau, and the General Guard Bureau (you’d think for simplicity’s sake they’d want to nail one down and stick with it). This group of guards, led by the Supreme Guard commander General Yun Jong-rin, is in charge of protecting Kim Jong Un and his family.
Next: One of the group’s names stems from a superstition.
2. Lucky number 9
Apparently, North Korea’s ruling family is superstitious. The name “Unit 963” was chosen because the number 9 is considered to be a lucky number. 963 is an especially lucky number, then, because “the Command’s designation number is in reference to the numerological construct ‘9 and 6+3=9’ (double nine),” according to Wikipedia.
Next: How they recruit new guards
3. Guards are chosen from high school students
The guard looks for new recruits among high school students, according to the personal testimonies of Lee Young-kuk. Students are lined up and inspected by guards. They’re looking for boys with no scars and well-proportioned bodies. If considered, the guard then looks into the boy’s family history, making sure he comes from a family with devout party loyalty.
Next: The extensive training they undergo
Once chosen, new guards are taken to training camp where they will undergo vigorous training for two years. Taekwondo classes, marksmanship, special operations tactics, and marching in full gear are all included in the training.
Next: Additional guard duties …
5. They’re more than just guards
In addition to protecting Kim Jong Un and his family, the guards have a wide array of skills. They also protect Pyongyang and its surrounding area, with the help of Pyongyang Defense Corps and III Army Corps. Additionally, their other responsibilities include: “chauffeur service, document delivery, IT support, infrastructure maintenance and construction,” according to North Korea Leadership Watch.
Next: Just how many of them are there?
6. There are more of them than you think
This isn’t a group of a hundred guards or so. According to North Korea Leadership Watch, there are “approximately 95,000-100,000 personnel dispersed across the DPRK into approximately six departments, three combat brigades, several bodyguard divisions, and one construction battalion.”
Next: The heavy duty guard equipment
7. Guard equipment
As you might have guessed, guard equipment is pretty heavy duty. Equipment includes: anti-aircraft artillery, multiple-launch rocket systems, armored combat vehicles, tanks, helicopters, jeeps, Mercedes limousine buses, and Russian-made Zil trucks and an unknown inventory of chemical weapons, according to NKLW.
Next: A personal account from a member of the Guard, and a harrowing story of escape.
Bodyguards had to perform dangerous tasks, such as head-butting tiles and smashing granite against their chests
The tests that determine whether or not someone is fit to be a bodyguard for North Korea’s elite are grueling. Lee Young-guk, a former bodyguard for Kim Jong Il who eventually defected to South Korea, said the training to become a member of Kim Jong Il’s security was unimaginable. He told CNN he had to smash tiles with his head and break granite on his chest with a mallet. He also had to break a light bulb using one finger.
Next: Here’s why the bodyguards went through such intense training — and it wasn’t for strength.
The intense training was meant to ‘build up loyalty’
The type of training Lee underwent wouldn’t get him too far in a war. He said it was to build loyalty rather than learn to fight the enemy. “A handgun won’t win a war and taekwondo serves nothing but the spirit, but it creates loyalty,” he told CNN. Kim wanted guards who would protect him and be loyal to him. He didn’t want anyone turning on him. Lee later said he felt like Kim constantly lived in fear.
Next: Bodyguards were brainwashed to believe Kim was this.
Bodyguards were brainwashed to believe Kim was a god
Lee was brainwashed to believe that Kim was the best of the best. Kim was a god to his security and to all the people of North Korea. Lee also said in his interview that Kim’s security was brainwashed to think their only reason for birth was to protect their “Dear Leader.” Residents of North Korea are also brainwashed to love and respect their leader. One defector told The Guardian that citizens can never know what life outside of North Korea is like. And it starts from the time they’re able to talk.
Next: Here’s the real reason Lee said Kim used such aggressive tactics.
Lee said Kim lived in fear and was extremely two-faced
Lee said that Kim’s reason for having two extremely different attitudes stemmed from him living in fear. Some days, Kim would give out gold. Other days, he would sentence people to death for doing something as simple as taking the same elevator as him. “…Even when he was happy, he could be rude and chop off their heads,” Lee told CNN. But it wasn’t until Lee finally escaped that he realized how terrible Kim actually was.
Next: Lee realized the extent of Kim’s dictatorship soon after he left North Korea.
Lee did not understand the dictatorship until after he escaped
Lee made his first escape plan in 1994, but he got caught. He was then sent to Yodok political camp, which is one of North Korea’s most brutal camps. One defector recalled what life was like in the prison, saying he was beaten and forced to live without teeth for four years. Lee was eventually able to escape the camp and finally head for South Korea. But he told CNN he didn’t realize how bad Kim was until after he left. He’d been so brainwashed that it took moving to a new country to see the destruction Kim had caused.
Next: This is the worst of the three Kim leaders, according to Lee.
Lee says Kim Jong Un is the worst leader of them all
But Lee says Kim Jong Un is even worse than his father. And over the past three generations, the leaders have only gotten more dangerous. He told CNN that Kim Jong Un’s horrific murder of his own uncle makes him an even worse leader than Kim Jong Il. But Kim Jong Il supposedly killed his own nephew, too. Lee said North Korea’s loyalty to Kim Jong Un is fake and only based on fear.
Next: You won’t believe how intense Kim Jong Un’s security detail is.
Kim Jong Un’s security detail is so extreme that they must run alongside his car
Kim Jong Un might take his security detail even more seriously than his father did. In a recent meeting with the South Korean president, Kim’s bodyguards can actually be seen running alongside his car. It’s a testament to their loyalty and impeccable shape. But it also shows that Kim is incredibly fearful and how far behind North Korea is with technology. It appears Kim’s limo was not even bulletproof.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!