So the dear leader—frequently called Kim Jong Mentally-Ill—is dead. This hasn’t exactly occasioned an outpouring of grief, but it is an appropriate time to consider Kim Jong-il’s psychology, which, according to the limited reports received over the years by Western media, seems very distorted. Is this type of distortion—a personality disorder, perhaps—true of all dictators? There’s certainly a level of grandiosity that far exceeds that of the normal person.
Scientific American published an article yesterday: “The Psychology of Dictatorship: Kim Jong-Il” by Jason G. Goldman. Goldman starts where we all might—with Hitler, citing a 2007 study in which five experts were asked to analyze Hitler according to DSM diagnosis. The group did the same with Saddam Hussein, and in 2009, with Kim Jong-il. All three studies revealed six personality disorders that may affect dictators: sadistic, antisocial, paranoid, narcissistic, schizoid, and schizotypal.
Goldman does an admirable job of putting this information into perspective—pointing out, for instance, that most people who have such personality disorders do not, in fact, become dictators.
Also on Scientific American’s website, there’s a blog entry by Gary Stix, who writes: “What was up with a world leader who thought he could control the weather while engaging in his passion for Elizabeth Taylor movies?” He cites the same studies that Goldman does, but quotes the researchers on the political implications of dealing with such a leader:
“Kim Jong-il’s antisocial features, such as his fearlessness in the face of sanctions and punishment, serve to make negotiations extraordinarily difficult. Even ‘submitting to negotiations’ makes many antisocial individuals unwilling and hostile. Kim Jong-il appears to pride himself on North Korea’s independence, despite the extreme hardships it appears to place on the North Korean people. This behavior appears to emanate, in large part, from his antisocial personality pattern.”