Who are the tall guards surrounding Kim Jong-un?

PHOTO: AFP

Amid an amicable summit between the two Korean leaders at Panmunjeom on Friday, a herd of stoic North Korean men clad in suits grabbed the attention of viewers watching on television. 

As Kim Jong-un strode toward the border between the two Koreas, a flock of security guards surrounded the North Korean leader in a V-shaped formation. 

The fourteen tall, suited men scattered when Kim approached South Korean President Moon Jae-in, waiting at the demarcation line. 


Photo: AFP

A few hours later, when the morning session of the summit was over and Kim boarded his Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine to briefly return North for lunch, 12 of the guards returned, circling the vehicle and jogging alongside it. 

When the car sped up, the guards followed suit and ran in sync with it, five men on each side and two at the back. 


Photo: AFP

Meticulous care went into security measures Friday, the summit being Kim Jong-un's first time being exposed for such an extended period to international media. But the prominence of the security guards could also have been a display of power, reports cited a Blue House security official as saying Friday. 

"The V-shape formation is usually used when going through a crowd of people. But on Friday, it was likely used as a show of North Korea's meticulousness," the official told local news. 

The guards are the most elite soldiers of the North Korean army, reports say. While most North Korean male citizens are obligated to 10 years of military service, Kim's guards serve for at least 13 years. 

Years of rigorous training are required to be employed as the leader's bodyguard. "No special agent would compare to a member of Kim's security force," a North Korean defector told local news. 

Many of the security guards come from elite backgrounds, local reports added. An extensive vetting of each guard's character and ideology also follows, reports said. 

Kim Jong-un first N Korean leader to cross border into South since war

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim's wife Ri Sol Ju and Moon's wife Kim Jung-sook attend a farewell ceremony at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018.
  • North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) toast with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (2nd R) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (R) during the official dinner at the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.
  • The leaders of North and South Korea agreed Friday to pursue a permanent peace and the complete denuclearisation of the divided peninsula, as they embraced after a historic summit laden with symbolism.
  • The leaders of North and South Korea agreed Friday to pursue a permanent peace and the complete denuclearisation of the divided peninsula, as they embraced after a historic summit laden with symbolism.
  • Upon signing the document, the two leaders shared a warm embrace, the culmination of a summit filled with smiles and displays of friendship in front of the world’s media.
  • Upon signing the document, the two leaders shared a warm embrace, the culmination of a summit filled with smiles and displays of friendship in front of the world’s media.
  • Among the many spectacles Friday's inter-Korean summit offered was the two Korea's first ladies' first-ever meeting with one another, and the seemingly instant bond they formed.
  • The two were holding hands as they left the Peace House after the dinner, and did not let go of each other's hands until they reached an outdoor property where they watched a special performance celebrating the historic summit together.
  • And the two first ladies, in spite of seeing each other for the first time, seemed to have bonded well after the spring-themed banquet event.
  • And the two first ladies, in spite of seeing each other for the first time, seemed to have bonded well after the spring-themed banquet event.
  • Kim, who is some 30 years Ri's senior, extended a warm welcome and took her to the Peace House, where the summit had been taking place since earlier in the day.
  • In the afternoon, they planted a memorial tree and watered it with water from rivers in the South and North, before walking into a small glen along the border and across the blue footbridge for their private tete-a-tete as the sun set.
  • Moon would visit Pyongyang in “the fall”, the two leaders said, also agreeing to hold “regular meetings and direct telephone conversations”.
  • After the summit, he pledged that the two Koreas will ensure they did not “repeat the unfortunate history in which past inter-Korea agreements... fizzled out after beginning”.
  • The two previous Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, both of them in Pyongyang, also ended with displays of affection and similar pledges, but the agreements ultimately came to naught.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed the border into South Korea for the first time on Friday. The two leaders were handed flowers by a South Korean boy and girl, residents of a village situated in the demilitarised zone.
  • Kim was greeted by the South’s president, Moon Jae-in ahead of the two Koreas’ first summit in more than a decade.
  • Kim said he felt a “swirl of emotion” as he walked the short distance to the border, wondering “why it took so long”, he told Moon later, at the beginning of their meeting.
  • The two leaders smiled and shook hands after which Kim Jong Un gestured to Moon they cross over to North Korea briefly, which they did for a few steps, then returned to the South, holding hands.
  • The two leaders smiled and shook hands after which Kim Jong Un gestured to Moon they cross over to North Korea briefly, which they did for a few steps, then returned to the South, holding hands.
  • A new period in inter-Korean history was beginning, Kim Jong Un said Friday at the opening of a summit with the South.
  • “I came here determined to send a starting signal at the threshold of a new history,” he told his host Moon Jae-in in the Demilitarized Zone, promising a “frank, serious and honest mindset”.
  • Kim wore glasses and his trademark black Mao suit, while the rest of the North Korean delegation appeared in military uniforms or Western attire.
  • Kim stopped to sign a guest book in the South’s Peace House before the two leaders met for a private discussion.
  • His message read: ""A new history begins now. At the starting point of history and the era of peace."
  • Kim escorted by his bodyguards as he makes his way to the Military Demarcation Line.
  • The two men went back to their separate sides for lunch, Kim driven in a black limousine and escorted by a dozen bodyguards in dark suits and ties jogging alongside the vehicle.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in sat down at an oval table to begin their inter-Korean summit Friday, television footage showed.
  • Both leaders viewing the painting of Bukhansan at the Peace House
  • Walking on a red carpet rolled out for the two heads of state, the pair were met by a South Korean honour guard in historical costumes and playing traditional music.
  • The two are expected to talk denuclearisation and exchanges between the Koreas and also will plant a memorial tree at the border truce village of Panmunjom.
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