Kim Jong Un has yet to earn the grudging respect of ordinary North Koreans, according to North Korean defector and activist Jeong Kwang-il. Jeong says most North Koreans who do not curry favor with the regime do not refer to him as the “General” or the “Supreme Leader.”
In the past, North Korean leaders were addressed with honorifics, Jeong said. “But nowadays when I speak to North Koreans on the phone, they just call him ‘Jong Un,’ the way one would refer to a friend,” Jeong said.
That trend could be frustrating to the young Kim, who recently was declared “Chairman” during North Korea’s Seventh Party Congress. But the lack of reforms and improvement to people’s lives could be having a greater effect on perceptions of Kim in the country.
Jeong also said that defector activism, including the delivery of South Korean videos such as films of resettled defectors in the South, flash drives of western movies and memory cards for mobile phones, are making an impact on North Korean understanding of the outside world.
Disillusioned with the regime after viewing the media, some North Koreans have started to call the leader “that guy Jong Un” or sometimes “that kid,” according to Jeong.
There’s evidence North Koreans are no longer afraid to breach rules of conduct, the activist said.