Kim Jong-un Is Looking For Taller Bodyguards

by : Hannah Smith on :
Kim Jong-un Is Looking For Taller BodyguardsAlamy

The criteria for one of North Korea’s toughest jobs just got a little bit tougher, as new standards for the bodyguards tasked with protecting Kim Jong-un are revealed.

In a set of leaked documents containing updated guidelines for the elite Unit 974 – the personnel tasked with protecting the Supreme Leader and other senior leadership – it’s noted that the height requirement for the role has increased compared with last year’s standards, by a whole 4cm.


Whereas last years recruits were required to be 17 years old and at least 163cm tall (or expected to reach that height by the time they’d finished growing) this year’s crop must hit 167cm, or 5’4, to be considered.

Kim Jong-un bodyguards (Alamy)Alamy

It’s not clear exactly why the height requirement has changed, and interestingly the minimum height for bodyguard recruits remains shorter than that of Kim Jong-un himself, who is officially declared to be around 170cm, or 5’7 (though photos taken a few years ago during a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in led some observers to suggest he may be closer to 5’5.)

Adequate height is just one of a number of strict criteria required of candidates for the elite unit. According to the leak, which was obtained by Daily NK, potential recruits must also attend a top high school – so-called ‘No.1 schools’ – and maintain good grades.


The standards also stress that candidates should be recruited from rural communities, ideally from families of farmers or labourers. A source told Daily NK that the reason for this is the lengthy time bodyguards spend away from their homes, with new recruits often going more than a decade before they’re able to visit their families.

Bodyguards jogging (Alamy)Alamy

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The source added that children from urban areas are thought to have ‘higher consciousness’ than those from rural families, and are less likely to accept becoming ‘meat shields’ for North Korean leadership.

Other qualities included in the standards are less tangible, with positive markers for candidates including ‘absolutely idolising’ Kim Jong-un and being prepared to die in order to protect him, as well as more generally being of ‘good character’ and actively participating in North Korean society.


Candidates are also required to undergo extensive vetting to ensure that there are no issues with their ‘political or ideological mentality’. It’s not known how many new recruits are selected to join Unit 974, but based on the number of bodyguards required to jog alongside Kim’s car alone, we’d imagine it’s a fair few.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah is a London-based journalist covering news and features for UNILAD. She's especially interested in social and political activism.

Topics: News, Kim Jong-un, North Korea, Now


Daily NK
  1. Daily NK

    Candidates for North Korean leadership bodyguard unit must be four centimeters taller than last year