Dynamics in the Kim Jong Family and North Korea's Erratic Behavior

The White House, Department of Defense, and State Department are in crisis mode trying to determine the next unpredictable move by North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un. Powerful sibling 'de-identification' and parental favoritism forces are playing a role in this enigmatic family. Being the youngest of three brothers, Kim Jong-Un may have been driven by a need to distance himself from the identities of his very different older brothers and by gaining the favor of his father. Kim Jong-Un may be revealing a powerful family-based dark side, which could be the beginning of a difficult period in the Korean Peninsula. Sibling dynamics have led to many interesting outcomes but nuclear war would definitely be a first.

Not much is known about this secretive family. Even the accurate date of birth of the North Korean leader is not known. Although it is believed to be January 8th, a birthday he shares with Elvis Presley, the exact year of birth has been reported as either being 1982, 1983, or 1984. Kim Jong-Un is one of three brothers. The oldest, Nam, is known as a bit of a trouble maker and has been a nuisance for the family for some time. The second son, Chul, is known to be reserved, timid, and in the words of father Kim Jung-Il, "effeminate". Then comes Kim Jong-Un, the youngest of the brothers and the seemingly erratic leader of North Korea. It is natural for children in the same family to have similarities and to be compared to one another. Kim Jong-Un and brother Chul were both basketball fans and apparently had a fascination with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan, and Dennis Rodman. The relationship between Kim Jong-Un and Dennis Rodman has received recent media attention but a less discussed Rodman connection is a photo of Kim Jong-Un's older brother Chul wearing a Rodman jersey as a boy. The similarities between the siblings did not end at the basketball court. Both brothers attended the Kim Il-Sung Military University simultaneously and both accompanied their father to military inspections during their father's reign. The similarity between the two brothers was also evident during the controversy surrounding a photo of one of the brothers dressed like a gang member during their school's production of the musical Grease. Controversy erupted regarding the identity of the brother in the picture with conflicting reports about which of the two brothers was in fact the figure in the photo.

The younger brother often responds to sibling similarities by trying to follow a life path that is different from the path followed by older brothers. This process, referred to in the sibling research as sibling deidentification, is a common reaction to sibling comparisons that is designed to carve out a unique identity for a younger sibling. The nature of Kim Jong-Un's de identification may be driven by his attempt to distance his identify from the reckless, play-boy, gambling ways of his oldest brother Nam and the timid and effeminate disposition of his brother Chul. This required him to focus on his academics, achievements, and macho disposition to distance himself from the characteristics of his older brothers. Add to the mix the additional powerful family dynamic of parental favoritism and Kim Jong-Un's behaviors begin to coalesce. His de-identification towards academics, achievements, and masculinity paid off with a clear favoritism by his father. Kim Jong-Un was promoted above his siblings up the chain of command. He was appointed as the vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party and was made a four-star general.

Furthermore, imagine how proud his father was with the resemblance in appearance between his up and coming son Un and his beloved father and legendary leader Kim Il-Sung. Kim Jong-Un's haircut is no mistake. It is the identical one donned by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung. To continue standing out among his brothers and making his father and grandfather proud these recent moves by Kim Jong-Un may be driven by powerful family dynamics. These psychological undercurrents may spell the beginning of a difficult period in the Korean Peninsula.