tv Anna Fifield The Great Successor CSPAN September 7, 2019 3:46am-4:23am EDT
[applause] good evening. is new for book tv and all the c-span product. >> good morning everyone, and welcome. my name is douglas and i'm in the ford editor at the washington post. i am so pleased to introduce anna the bureau treat. who is the author of the brand-new book the quiet successor, the timely behind the scenes look at one of the most elusive dictators, kim jong-un and extraordinary reporting, his ascension and roots through three generation of family role in north korea that began with
his grandfather. the great successor is almost certainly the most complete can portrait that we have of kim jong-un today. providing vital insight to the mind and motivations of the young and still mysterious leader. it makes a compelling case for understanding kim as a rational and methodical act around the world stage without diminishing the cruelty of his regime and the dangers it poses. before moving to china a year ago and japan and korea for the post. over the course of her career she has reported for more than 20 countries and is visited north korea a dozen times. she was a fellow at the harvard university studying how change happens in close society and last year she received the award from stanford university for her outstanding reporting on asia.
no better person to speak with anna in the washington post. their conversation this morning will be followed by a panel discussion about current u.s. relations with north korea with a noted korean expert in the washington post the great successor will be available for purchase after the program so stick around to get your copy signed by anna. and before we begin i want to point out the striking timeliness of this book publication in the program this morning. we are exactly when you're out from the historic summit that brought president trump and kim jong-un together in singapore. thank you again for being here and please join me in welcoming anna five filled to the states. >> thank you so much, this is
really a treat for me as opposed journalist, anna is the gold standard of north korea to give you a sense i'm going to read you a blurb on the back of the book, we authors alike to get blurbs but really one as extraordinary as this. there is no journalist in any language was done more to honor intel the standing story of kim jong-un than enough i feel. that is our author this money. and i want to open with your big scoop that has been getting reaction from president trump and a lot of other people. on page 213 of this book. no doubt said many weeks ago,
you write, that kim jong-un his half-brother, began an informant for the cia and agency with a track record of bringing down spies that did not like. president trump was asked about this yesterday, the report was written by the wall street journal, he said i sell the information to respect kim jong-un's brother or half-brother and i would tell him that would not happen under my absences. in other words, if i understood the president for swearing, recruiting agents to spy on a country that still threatens us with nuclear weapons, and extremities treatment. let's start with this group and tell us what you can about this role as an informant that was
played by kim jong-un. >> whai went to switzerland ande saying isent kim jong-un. having said that it was a surprise that kim jong-un would order his half-brother's assassination even to north korea. and having a chemical weapon apply to his face. he died within 20 minutes of the attack. there was quite a lot of compliment about why he would do that. he had been living outside of north korea for almost two decades by that time, he had a
base in beijing, and protection of the chinese. and he really shown no interest whatsoever in the leadership of north korea. but having said that, north korea reaching is founded on this bizarre bloodline of ideas that the family descended from the holy mountain and north korea. technically kim jong-un can be arrival to the leadership of north korea because the other texan blood running through spain. enjoying the course of my reporting i was told by reliable source that kim jong-un had been an informant for the cia in his final years. he had been meeting his handlers and southeast asia and passing on what information he knew about the regime there.
even though he was in an xl, he continued to have good talk contacts at the regime. until kim jong-un had him killed in 2015. his uncle was a north korean boxer from malaysia. he continued to have high-level contacts, he could've been a good source of information and the reporting is that he had met his handler in malaysia the day before his death. he had $120,000 in cash in his backpack at the time of his death. that would seem to give reason for kim jong-un even more consent. >> that is the question of the day, i would say. is it your information or would you assume that at the time of this grisly murder with the biological weapon that kim jong-un on was aware that his half-brother was in effect an
asset of the cia? >> it's impossible to say. i spent the last two years trying to get into his kim jong-un's head. which is a very scary place. but on so many levels, he had been overly criticizing the regime and encounters with the japanese journalist. and plus he was a specter. if he did know about this, yes, all of these things are treason and kim jong-un's eyes and anyone of them could be reason for him to feel he had to get rid of his brother. >> if i ask you, what the likely effect of president trump's remarkable statement, i would not do that would be for an agency in american government that is struggling every day to know as much as they can about north korea that is closed and still threatening, this would have negative effects together
information. >> one of the big challenges when north korea, there is almost no shame in intelligence north korea. ththe cia because of the hottest of the house. if they were recruiting kim jong-nam, thus understanding of their regime. if i was working at the cia and heard the president say that and think to confirm that kim jong-un was working for the cia, i think i'd be quite demoralized. >> i want to turn to the book it's an extraordinary narrative and like a novel it has arc and will get to where the arcos and to me it was a surprising place. but i would begin with the question is how you as a journalist put the story together, you say at one point early in the book that kim
jong-un became an enduring obsession for you. obsessions are good things for journalists because it puts us in a place that we got to know the next factory walk the audience through your research into this amazing compound on the beach where he and another one per centers of north korea hung out in your tracking stories about him answer to them. how you assembled with the narrative in the book. >> when i returned i previously covered north korea when i returned in 2014 i was so astonished that this young guy, he is 27 years old when he took over. he has been able to hold onto the leadership and to defy all of these expectations. and i wanted to try to figure out why and as reporter i did what we do and i went out and tried to report it out. so i tried to re-create his childhood and bring together as much information as they could
about how he grew up, how he detained this leader he is today. how he justifies himself and all the brutal things he does to remain the leader. i was living in japan when i found the japanese sushi chef who had lived in the rural household and this was such a good illustration of how little we know about kim jong-un and the kind of people whose brains we will pick to find out about him. somebody who left japan during the years to move to north korea. but he has this about kim jong-un at a very young age. he told me i didn't eighth birthday party when he is present in kim jong-un was presented with the uniform, he was called the little general, and real generals come to his birthday party and saluted to him. and later i managed to track down his aunt and uncle who had been his guardian in switzerland posing with his parents during
his teenage years, they were able to confirm that for me, they were also at the birthday party at the eighth birthday party. i really just tried to sit out to find everything a person that could and who had any kind of encounter with him. of course a lot of the stories -- it woul got very superficial but i wanted to know anything that i could add to increase the understanding of a man with such a threat to the outside world. >> one image that hunted me was that of kim jong-un at the perhaps the 11 or 12 schoolboy with an obsession for basketball. every afternoon putting on his chicago bulls jersey with michael jordan number. talk to us about this weird basketball obsession that he had
and how it was bizarrely and is this this policy with dennis rodman of all people. one of the weirdest characters to come out of the mba. >> this is real, he is a huge basketball fan, every day after school he was down at the high school shooting hoops and nobody knew who he was. in fact the embassy was very close to the high school and the other kids thought he was tight. but they did think it was quite strange that he was there often in a row of koreans in the asian adults sitting there cheering excessively every time he scored a point in kim jong-un is trash talking and that was a little weird. but he has been -- >> trash talking, i'm trying to imagine whether he would call his players -- maybe that were came later prayed. >> his mother was a powerful influence in its often
overlooked, it was his mother who got him into basketball because you you will grow tall. >> kim jong-un was a short guy, as we know. she planted the seed in his head. >> people knowing of the basketball obsession would be president obama, have tried to send adversaries, madeleine albright sent -- i have seen the basketball several times, it's north korea it's a huge buckingham palace style building that is a gift museum and displays all the gifts that have ever been given to the leaders of north korea, it's very bizarre. in their is the mba basketball signed by many players, michael jordan that was delivered by madeleine when she met kim jong-un. we don't know whether that was
for the children or exactly what. there is a string of basketball there. and we laugh at kim jong-un at allowing dennis rodman to come in, but another thing i discovered with my reporting, this was a serious discussion at the cia in the early years. mysterious analyst one over the oval office and invited president obama. this might be a way for bridget to north korea. but it did not go anywhere. >> i want to turn to the narrative as kim jong-un becomes a leader and becomes the great successor. i want to remind people in the audience who are watching and streaming, if you have questions you would like to ask use the # post alive, it will send them to me by my computer. kim jong-un becomes a great
successor 2012. and he has extraordinary confide beginning. he speaks more of his father, give us a picture of them and will arrive in power and then his course from their to which you describe in 2016 as a moment where he plants his flag as a home. >> when he took over he was only 27 years old which is young anywhere let alone on a high rocket society like north korea. it was a lot of skepticism of whether he could do it whether he could remain leader and keep it all together. one of the surprising things was the fact that he did. he was very calculated entry from the get-go and the way he approached the shop. he had a bunch of advisors in effect many of the people who walked around at the funeral
were people who had served his father, some served as a father. the men who are the head of north korea with the foreign minister in 1984 when kim jong-un was born. these people have served the regime for a long time. we think they were were his advisors and helped him consolidate his role but he very ruthlessly got rid of all these people one by one went they serve no purpose for him, that included his uncle the dispute, the head of the army who helped with the transition, the propaganda chief, all of these of the regime disappear because he was done with them. he showed an ability to be very brutal and ruthless which one was a powerful deterrent message to anybody who might think about questioning him in the future especially the execution of his uncle. he was sending a message.
this man is so ruthless he will even get rid of his own uncle. that enabled him to prove and to be the strong leader so when he stood up on the stage in 2016 at the workers party congress, i was there for that, i was really astonished to see this young man holding force in front of three and half thousand, 60 something generals and working party. and not just the confidence he showed but he laid out an ambitious plan for economic improvement, the nazi reform because that applies to something, but he really put his name to this plan of an economic plan that was much more bolder then his father had ever done. also at 17 years of power his father spoke in public only once. that was one sentence.
a little chant to the working party. the fact that kim jong-un was up there so confident, so willing to hold force and makers of accountable. he showed himself to be a very different leader from his father in particular it of course we only sold more of that in 2017, 18 unfolded. >> one of the strong themes in your book is the way in which the most close society, the hermit kingdom has become more open, is not as dramatic as it once was. and there is a younger generation, you describe in a marvelous scene how you came back departin in the stores thed anywhere in the world but certainly in china which certainly had trouble. and you had a momentum developing because of that marvelous detail of people
floating balloons with flash drives and everything you can imagine. people might send across the board. tell us about that modernization spark if you will and whether you think that is what is powering and at the center of kim jong-un's vision? >> kim jong-un has very deliberately worked to the economy, when he first came in he was a program for several years prayed he tolerates the growth of the market. there were private markets that were state run but privately operated in a number of them have doubled under kim jong-un, their casa country everywhere. and people are entrepreneurial and north korea now, the state was a command social security and you see people cutting here
or selling homemade snacks or important race cookers enclosed from china. in making their own living. in making their own way. increasingly independent of the state. that is a big change, the biggest change in north korea is 17 years to think there is this entrepreneurial class and the growing middle class and north korea so across the country more people are able to make their own living and earn their own wages and buy their own food. nobody has benefited near as much as a people in pyongyang and he is very deliberately enabled them to get rich. so they are with corruption, people that are in official's, everybody is trying to earn money on the site, but as a result, they have become richer, they have more disposable income, you can see consumption
and north korea, now people walk around with the smart phones like anywhere else, and the smart phones are not connected to the outside world, they can only talk amongst themselves but still it looks like there's progress. and some of the young millennial's who live in pyongyang, they told me about all the things that they can enjoy. one of the little things, they get to work out, go to yoga classes not because their exercise freaks but it's the excuse to wear tight fitting clothing and flirt with opposite in it to hold jim singh and north korea, there's cappuccino bars in these gems in a sense for them that getting closer to what they can imagine in beijing. that is very deliberate on kim jong-un's part.
these are the people who gave them power. these millennial's in pyongyang are the people in power for 30 or 40 years he is really focusing them. >> in the ark of the story he has planted his flock for money. he drives quite ruthlessly toward nuclear weapons capability and the ability to deliver the weapons with missiles. and then in your story, we reach january 1, 2018. revenue president in america, and tell us about the turn in january 2018 and how it takes us towards singapore and hanoi. >> it came on november the 29th of 2017 when north korea conducted its last mission lunch. they put out a statement that said we have now completed our rocket program. and that would completed, that was a sign, the ready to talk
now, they are done. because all he needed was a credible threat, he needed to be able to show that he had missiles, nukes, he had not been able to put them together he had defied all the expectations and it was reasonable to think he could if you wanted to. but this was a signal that he was now ready for kim 2.0. he was ready to start talking and bark undiplomatic offensive. when he took over as a leader he revived the policy that his grandfather had introduced to the policy. as simultaneously policy. that was a nuclear program and economic developer. he was done with nuclear issues and are turning to the economy. and he grew his economy while there was all these crippling sanctions imposed on him. they are really hurting trade and to north korea. so he needed to try to metamorphosis into a charming
misunderstood dictator so he came out into the world, he started meeting xi jinping, came to south korea and try to present himself as a completely reasonable, responsible leader of the nuclear armed state to site any of the other members of the nuclear club. of course this was an act but also showed how steady he's been able to turn on the term and push president trump buttons in terms of love letters and thanks he sent him. he has been quite savvy in the way he is on the. >> tell us how you imagine the relationship between kim jong- jong-un, the brutal leader of the world most italians hearing the state and donald trump us up president of the united states and there are so many different
speculations in the processes, father son, brother brother, gangster gangster, and in the green room, this is two guys in search of the nobel peace prize, so tell us how you think about this. >> it was really fascinating to watch kim jong-un interaction with donald trump during the summers. in korean culture there is a lot of politeness and liberals in kim jong-un was really playing the junior part of it. he was using very honorific languages which the transit are told president trump he was using -- he was telling him to go first and to show he was a junior and donald trump was a senior. i think he was positioning himself in that way. but part of the reason i was
hoping my book would add to some of what we know about him, is because the north koreans know an awful lot about donald trump, they have read out of the deal, they have read fire in theory and i know somebody who is seen them reading it. that encyclopedic knowledge of everything that kim jong-un and donald trump have ever tweeted. so they have really been doing their homework and try to figure out what motivates him and what my appeal to him and there was very little in the opposite direction, and in terms of the general public, there is very little in the other direction, i wanted to look at the kind of person and personality kim jong-un was and what his motivations were. >> let me conclude my questions with the discussion of how in
the end you assess what's ahead and i want to go to a couple of the questions that we have from people that were watching this and sending them on twitter and facebook. what is fascinating to me about your book it is absolutely devastating in its assessment of the north korean leaders reality but you have concluded that his opening towards united states in the west is a serious one, you said you are feeling, back in june 2018 before the singapore summit, maybe it's time to trace and they differ. >> i had the same feeling in my columns. it's interesting to me, your optimism about the future continue even after the hanoi
summit and it was a significant failure. you in your book by quoting kim. and you quote him saying in a rear press interview he gave after the summit. my gut feeling is a good result will come. take us in to that and why you chose to in the book that way and what your own feeling is about the good result and one of her twitter questioners said, what will this country look like in ten years? >> he got the answer from kim jong-un. that was external. in covering north korea all this time, i should know better than to be optimistic. when north korea you have a much better chance of being right if you're pessimistic and expect everything to fall to pieces. the husband the history. but just looking at kim jong-un
and seeing he is so different from his father, yes there are some things he does the same but he is much bolder, much more gregarious, he seems to enjoy it, much more than his father ever did. but i also think because he is so young he knows that the situation of north korea now is unattainable. he needs a sense of economic growth of improvement in the guest between north and south korea and north korea and china. and it's not getting any whiter and knocking smaller. so i do think he wants to try to normalize the relationship and he would like a peace treaty to endocrine work for once and for all. he would like to be seen as a responsible leader in a developmental dictator like their husband in other parts of asia or singapore and around the
places. but having said that, that is the source of my optimism. i think he needs this process and even today, despite the disaster of hanoi, the signals are still very public. they are still talking about wanting to get back, today in korea kim jong-un sent his sister into the dmv to present flowers to the former first lady who died. there are these outreaches that are showing, even the missile launches recently, there was a sign of frustration, he was the attention back on him, he wants a process to continue because i think he knows he is a very unique window of emitted window of opportunity. that he has a very pro-engagement, president and south korea who has been a glue in the whole process and will be out of office in 2022.
he has a very unconventional american president is a counterpart who is showing a willingness to do things differently and does not listen to advisors. and that's an opportunity for him. one of the things i did uncover during the course of my reporting north korean tipple matt from new york went to a fortuneteller in koreatown and asked if donald trump would be reelected. the outcome was yes. i guess the north koreans think they have six years not two. but they have the sense that this is an opportunity for them to strike a deal which may not still be there. if it was a buddy who did things more buy the book in the future. so i do not think that any imagination that we are seeing that he will open up the economy, the even the limited chinese style is impossible. but i think he will try to make as much progress on the economic
as he can without opening up the information. >> so to put the question directly. president trump basically is making a bet, i think, that kim jong-un needs economic opening, certainly the sanctions but beyond that. and badly enough that it is a good bet to continue to engage in. is president trump right? >> yes, i think he is right. i think that all of the efforts over the past decade have not worked and it's right to try something different. i do not for second think kim jong-un will give up his nuclear weapons. but i think there could be a different process going on. i think they should work on opening a liaison office, it's difficult for the two sides to talk. they should be talking. but they can continue this process, maybe they can make
some change. i think north korea has divided this long for being the summit kingdom and shutting the people off from the outside world and keeping them isolated. we in the outside world should not be helping them to do this. we should be helping the north korean people to get more information, to bring people out, why are they not north korean soccer players coming to the u.s. and musicians, why is there not people to people exchange, we can help open their eyes and to not allow the regime to isolate the country for decades to come. >> a final question before i turn over to my colleagues to continue tricks for the issues with anna. the question that haunts us when we are in moments of crisis with north korea. i'm sure it consumes abou thouss of hours among analysts, is whether kim jong-un is rational
indeterminable actor or whether he is irrational and impulsive, you probably know him better than any journalist in the world. what is your answer. >> he is rational. the proof, he still power. seven and half years on with all the odds against him. the regime that must've been suspicious of him, the outside world and putting so much pressure on him to fail. he has somehow managed to a standard all. he could not have done this is he was not a rational actor. he is definitely not a good person, this is not a nice guy and when i say he is rational i don't want anybody to think i am sympathetic to him in any way. but i think if you look at it from a cold political view, he has done everything he needs to do to stay in power and he could not have done that if he was a nut job. >> unified field, a brilliant