As the US president, accompanied by the “shadow state department,” as the public referred to “first daughter” Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, rounded off his G20 trip on the Korean border on Sunday, eagle-eyed viewers managed to get a glimpse of the security detail entrusted with ensuring the North Korean leader’s safety.
His bodyguards have attracted attention for quite some time, ever since Kim’s landmark visit to Singapore back in 2018 for talks with the POTUS, when pictures of a dozen of Kim’s bodyguards dashing forward to keep up with the North Korean leader’s moving car made international headlines.
WaPo correspondent Anna Fifield brought up the issue in her "The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un", where she suggested that Kim got the idea for this human shield from Clint Eastwood, Business Insider Malaysia wrote.
"As a boy, he's seen the movie 'In the Line of Fire', in which Eastwood plays a US Secret Service agent who had been guarding John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1963. Eastwood's character and other agents run alongside the president's car," Fifield's book explains at length.
Getting the job of Mr Kim’s minder is incidentally a great challenge: according to Lee Yeong Guk, a bodyguard for Kim Jong Un's deceased father Kim Jong-il, it's "harder than passing through the eye of a needle".
Potential candidates are picked from the military and are obliged to pass numerous tests to get their physical health and personal qualities assessed – everything from facial looks to family background and success in sports, according to the former guard.
"Those charged with guarding the Brilliant Comrade [Kim Jong Un] must have excellent political credentials and come only from the most loyal classes,” Lee shared with ABC news in 2018, adding the candidates are supposed to be around the same height as Kim, and they are among the few citizens allowed to carry firearms in the proximity to the leader.
The minder also specified the skills needed to take the position: they "have to be good at shooting guns, Taekwondo, things like throwing knives, swimming, and marching - these are the first,” Lee said adding: “And the second is serving Kim Jong Il with loyalty, that's also the third and the fourth.”
Mr Kim’s personal security service has been shrouded in mystery, but media reports have speculated on a number of details. TIME wrote the bodyguards belong to the larger Supreme Guard Command, a roughly 100,000-strong force that deals with a number of different security threats that Kim might face. It is also believed there are some extraordinary measures like taste-testing food before it’s served to the North Korean leader as well as bringing Kim’s personal toilet wherever he travels, so that no foreign government can collect his DNA.