The Problem With Inherited Power: Donald Trump & Kim Jong-un

President Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was a real estate tycoon. The Trumps lived in Queens, New York, but young President Trump had aspirations for the Upper East Side. After impressing his parents in military academy and then at the University of Pennsylvania, President Trump was given a “small loan” of one million USD to begin real estate development. Fred Trump passed over his real estate company from his eldest son and promised it to his youngest, Donald Trump. After his father’s death, young President Trump inherited his father’s real estate company. During the 2017 Presidential Election, he touted his business prowess and wealth. He went so far as to gloss over the fact that his actual wealth is unknown and he continuously minimizes the fact that his legacy was handed to him.

Trump’s presidency is owed to his father who gave him the keys to the highest echelons of society. Without Fred Trump’s influence and wealth, it is likely that his son would have remained a provincial Queens boy. Fred Trump’s legacy catapulted his son into the world of extreme wealth and access. This wealth and power eventually impressed enough Americans to vote him in as President of the United States.

Now a leader, Donald Trump is poised at the precipice of multiple issues. The most immediate and pressing threat is North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and his intention of nuclear war.


Jong-un grew up under the weight of two previous leaders, Kim IL-Sung and Kim Jong-IL. His father, Kim Jong-IL, is said to be his greatest inspiration, so much so that articles have drawn comparisons between the two, such as Quartz that released an article titled, “Kim Jong-un’s transformation into his father is nearly complete.” Jong-un’s resemblance to his father is uncanny. Their hairstyles and dark grey suits are identical. His militaristic dictatorial governing is also the same. It is speculated that he spent large portions of his formative years abroad and in Switzerland, but his father and grandfather’s influences have not wavered.

Trump has similarly eulogized his father and has called him “his hero, role model and best friend.” Again, this son also takes after his father stylistically: slicked back hair and a suit.

The two leaders have followed in the footsteps of their fathers, but with greater zeal. Jong-un threatens international players with greater force and even endangers vital relations with China and Russia. Unlike his father, Trump has expanded business internationally and entered politics.

They pursue their power with enthusiasm and boldness that belies their political aplomb, which is actually the wantonness, ease and fearlessness provided through the comforts of inheritance. Both men play hard and dirty outdoing their fathers at every turn. What is stopping them now?

Jong-un’s latest promise is a big gift for the U.S. in the form of an arsenal of nuclear missiles. The U.S. government has sent Navy ships to the Korean Peninsula to monitor these threats. Issuing back and forth verbal warnings, both countries are practicing drills. Though, Jong-un says that the drills are a means to prepare for war. At the same time, North Korea threatens Japan and South Korea, as well. The situation is accelerating fast.

Recently, a public statement was released from North Korea that insinuated that South Korea and the U.S. are conspiring to kill Jong-un with biochemical weapons.

The most troubling aspect about North Korean nuclear threats is that the world does not have a firm grip about who Jong-un is and what he plans to do next. We don’t even know for certain if the U.S. and South Korea were indeed planning to kill Jong-un. Meanwhile, his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was assassinated in Malaysia’s Malay Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13. The assassination was abrupt and surprising. It has been found that the murder is linked to North Korean officials, but the reasoning for the assassination is still elusive. Considering that intelligence agencies around the world do not have consensus about Jong-un’s early life, current private life, his wife and children or his relationship with Jong Nam, there may never be a full story behind the assassination if it has already been so hard to glean decades-old information. Not only is Jong-un a mystery, but North Korea is the most isolated, least understood country in the world.

Interviewed by CNN, President Donald Trump went on record saying he did not know much about Kim Jong-un. He even speculated if he was ‘sane.’ Trump has continuously amped up the feud with controversial language and Jong-un retaliates with bombastic measure. Oddly, Trump made an about-face and complimented him during the feud. He called him a ‘smart cookie.’

Jong-un, the ‘smart cookie,’ is condemned for crimes against humanity, he rules without contest and he did not use his wits to attain power. Trump perhaps felt an affinity for Jong-un’s life: he also comes from a powerful father and inherited that power at a young age. If one looks closer, there are more similarities. Jong-un and Trump are both reported to be fiercely patriotic and narcissistic making them similarly entitled leaders. This entitlement, perhaps, comes from being handed a legacy. The American and North Korean people are told to believe that legacy equates formidable leadership. This has no proven correlation. Actually, the leadership of both men is highly criticized and the similarities seem to equate inherited power with delusional self-centeredness and patriotic absolutism.

Trump has shown no shame or embarrassment over sexual assault allegations, or any other controversy for that matter. He describes himself in “yuge” and “bigly” terms, his language for ‘impressive.’ He not only ignores his own flaws but the flaws of his country. Similarly, Jong-un has depicted himself as flawless and revered, ignoring the growing number of defectors fleeing his country and the criticisms from international human rights groups abroad. He has gone as far as to spin a story that he was born under a double rainbow.

To get into the minds of the two leaders responsible for possible nuclear war, one has to get through their grandiose rhetoric.

Trump’s infamous tweets are one of the main ways Americans learn about him as President and Head of Military. So far, Trump uses Twitter to establish his worldview, although Twitter does not allow for nuance with only 140 characters per tweet. Trump has written ten tweets about North Korea since his first 100 days in office. Beyond his appeals to American supremacy and strength against North Korea, Trump promises to keep his military strategy private from the world in order to have the element of surprise. The public only has a throng of vague tweets to analyze Trump’s view of U.S.-North Korean relations.

Concurrently, Jong-un also values the element of surprise. He does little to warn the world about his nuclear developments and war strategies until his government produces carefully articulated press releases, or they announce their developments once the test missile is already launched.

American citizens and the rest of the world are clearly in the dark about something as dangerous and life-altering as nuclear war. Speculation is the best we can do. Jong-un turns out propaganda while Trump clumsily navigates international relations via 140 characters. If we are only getting myopic information once something has already happened, paranoia creeps up and one wonders if the same thing will happen with nuclear war: will we only realize everything once bombs strike?  

The hermit country of North Korea can be easily forgotten, but when Jong-un promises to make his mark on the world with the backing of various unnamed countries, Russia and China’s unwavering support, one wants to pay attention. Although, what is often observed is just a mess of incoherency and mystery.

The two men seem to be treating their nuclear arsenals like a chest of toys that are presents from their fathers. It is a cavalier display of power that has the potential to wreak havoc and kill millions of civilian lives.

By Mariah Katz


Photo credit:

Photo 1: The White House, Creative Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0

Photo 2: Quasuo, Creative Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0

Photo 3: Rob Walsh, Creative Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0

Photo 4: Vietnam Mobiography, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)