Kiran Joyce studied International Relations at the University of Denver: ‘The paranoid is a given. He’s a dictator, literally everyone in that position is a bit paranoid. As for the unpredictable, I think that label comes from the media portrayal that he’s insane. Insane people tend to be labelled insane because of their unpredictability. Kim is actually very predictable, and behaving exactly how a dictator would. Perhaps the insanity stuff comes from some of the executions he’s ordered, but again that’s just standard dictator fare.
Kim Jong Un is considered paranoid and unpredictable because it makes good press and good politics.
It’s not that he isn’t a little paranoid, and it’s not like people are able to completely predict what he’ll do, but any paranoia is a natural consequence of being the dictator in an impoverished country, and any unpredictability is not really true if you actually take a look at him and his circumstances.
The State Department, the CIA and various other intelligence agencies compile dossiers on every world leader, no matter how small the country. They spend a lot of time and money to figure out these leaders for reasons of influence, diplomacy and war, because knowing is usually a lot less expensive than not knowing when it’s crunch time.
I do not currently know anybody who works in intelligence, and I have no access to classified information (never had, as far as I know). However, Kim Jong Un is understandable in the context of his situation: he’s an absolute dictator with some expensive tastes and some Western-normative wants, who enjoys good attention, is sometimes thin-skinned about bad attention, wants recognition and respect on the global stage, and cannot afford to let his iron grip on his country slip even a little bit. His country is impoverished, so he looks for ways to make money. Since he is already viewed as a rogue actor he goes by the maxim of might makes right. Arming rogue terrorists, selling expertise in banned research, cybertheft, all are money-makers for a country that’s hungrier than a pack of starved wolves at a sheep convention.
Put all that together and what would you expect him to do? In light of those factors, what he is doing is actually quite rational. Horrible, but rational.
The pattern is there. It’s actually not a particularly complicated one if you look at all the factors, and the very limited number of influential people in North Korea—including Dennis Rodman when he visits—keeps down the factors.