Officials below the power circle of the Kim family may not play an overt role in N. Korea, but are vital to understanding the regime and its future.
The man at the helm in North Korea today is an accident of history, surrounded by vestigial assertions of narcissistic genius that are de rigueur for North Korea's depiction of its own leaders. More than any time since the young Kim Il-song was surrounded by Soviet generals in the 1940s, the North Korean leader today is dependent upon advisors.
Advisors and officials below the rungs of the Kim family may not play an overt role in North Korea, but they are vital. And they need to be known, not least because they can be blamed, and possibly executed, when problems arise. The North Korean state marshaled the power of the North Korean rumor mill when it indicates that discord among advisors can be exploited by North Korea's adversaries, when in fact it cannot.
In terms of how he handles his own advisors, Kim Jong-un shows every indication that he is operating from manuals set down by his grandfather and father. Kim Jong-un is frequently likened to the young Kim Il-song, North Korea's guerilla fighter, Sovietized soldier, and state founder.