The rocket scientist who could help launch World War III was “plucked from obscurity” by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and has risen in the rogue regime due to his efficiency at achieving Pyongyang’s deadly aims.
Kim Jong Sik caught Kim’s attention after he helped successfully launch an Unha-3 rocket in 2012, Reuters reported. The scientist, who’s now often pictured with the dictator and donning the military uniform of a general, got credit for the rocket launch. It’s unclear if Kim Jong Sik spent any time in the military before his rapid rise.
“When that thing went off and entered into a lower earth orbit, he got credit for that,” said Michael Madden, director of North Korea Leadership Watch and contributor to 38 North. “The nuclear and missile guys under Kim Jong Un are getting their jobs based on merit.”
Few details are known about Kim Jong Sik, but Madden described the shadowy scientist as a “key figure” behind North Korea’s missile successes — including its two intercontinental ballistic missile launches in July.
“He is a guy that’s helped them identify certain technical problems or reach certain technical benchmarks and that’s a critical thing,” Madden told The Mirror.
He added: “He moved from being a sort of a mid-level guy to being one of the lead people…and that’s where his career gets this big bump. Then about a year-and-a-half later he all of a sudden shows up as a deputy director of North Korea’s munitions industry department.”
The addition of Sik, who was “plucked from obscurity,” could explain the huge strides the volatile regime has made in its nuclear and missile programs since Kim Jong Un rose to power following his father’s death in 2011. North Korea claimed it detonated a hydrogen bomb on Sunday, but experts have not independently confirmed the device.
Madden said Kim Jong Sik is believed to be in his 50s and is one of five people who holds the deputy director title. The North Korean leader has promoted the rocket scientist based on his achievements – not because of family ties.
“Kim Jong Un has been very good actually about promoting people that didn’t have the traditional patronage ties,” Madden said.
Kim Jong Un also reportedly handpicked two other men — Ri Pyong Chol and Jong Chang Ha — to lead the missile program with Kim Jong Sik.
“Kim Jong Un is raising a new generation of people separate from his father’s key aides,” a South Korean official told Reuters.
North Korea, known for their “gift packages” threats, often claims it is just steps away from achieving nuclear and missile capabilities, including shrinking down warheads to fit into ICBMs — a task it has spent decades to perfect.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.