Kim Jong-il has been ruling North Korea since July of 1994, when he succeeded his father upon the latter’s death. And while Kim, as a totalitarian dictator, controls virtually everything within North Korea’s borders (and, per North Korean lore/propaganda, this includes the weather), there is one thing clearly outside his control: his height. And according to multiple reports from a North Korean defector, the leader of the nation is not so happy about it.
Jong-il apparently does not let anyone measure his height, and, in fact, North Korea does not list an official height for him. As seen above (via DailyNK) in a 2001 summit with Vladmir Putin, Jong-il has taken to wearing platform shoes which elevate his height by as much as four and a half inches — but pictures of those are also forbidden. And he apparently selects bodyguards who are not very tall as to mask his true height. He is believed to be no taller than 5’5″, and probably a mere 5’3″ or 5’2″.
But his height is no laughing matter.
In 2008, one of Jong-il’s former teachers, a Russian professor named Kim Yung Sik, published an essay in Foreign Policy magazine describing life under the despot’s rule. According to Yung Sik, North Korea’s leader was a megalomanic, as one would expect. But Yung Sik makes one very odd allegation. Jong-il’s government issued a letter to every short man and woman in the city, telling them of a new wonder drug which would boost them to average, if not beyond — but, when the short people arrived, they found no drug present. Rather, they found themselves kidnapped, whisked away to parts unknown, in an attempt to rid Pyongyang’s gene pool of their substandard stature. These people were never heard from again.
Thousands of people, gone — simply because Kim Jong-il is short, and has a huge chip on his shoulder.
From the Archives: Year 100: North Korea’s cult of personality around Kim Jong-il is nothing compared to that around his deceased father.
Related: Kim Jong-il should probably read this book (a classic with over 250 reviews).