Why does Kim Jong-un have running bodyguards?

Ahead of the historic summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader’s bodyguards have already stolen the show. 

Clad in black suits with short haircuts, the group of men ran alongside Mr Kim’s bulletproof and fireproof limousine as it went through Singapore on Sunday. 

Michael Madden, a visiting scholar of the US Korea Institute at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University, told the BBC the bodyguards are more than just “a piece of spectacle”. 

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un in a car escorted by bodyguards during the Inter-Korean Summit in South Korea in April. Source: Getty Images

“When in North Korea, Mr Kim’s close bodyguard has three different lines that surround him,” Mr Madden said.

“There’s a modified version of this on display in Singapore and all eyes are on the men in dark suits. The bodyguards running alongside Mr Kim’s limousine and those who walk in close proximity to him are part of something called Central Party Office #6, or formally, it’s known as the Main Office of Adjutants.” 

“They form the immediate line around Mr Kim and are selected from Korean People’s Army (KPA) recruits fulfilling their national service conscription obligations.”

To get selected to guard the North Korean leader, bodyguards must be approximately the same height as Mr Kim and not have any visual impairments.

They must be expert marksmen and trained in martial arts. Their families are also vetted before they can be given the post.

If selected as one of Mr Kim’s bodyguards, they are not allowed to refuse the offer, and enter a training programme to get them ready.

Mr Madden said they are trained in the use of handguns, evasion techniques and a variety of martial arts.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walks along the Jubilee bridge in Singapore during a tour of some of the sights ahead of his historic meeting with US President Donald Trump. Source: Getty Images

He added the bodyguards form a ring around Mr Kim so they can scout the location and those who approach their leader. This ring would be comprised of three to five bodyguards and includes the director of the Main Office of Adjutants. 

In addition, there are between four and six bodyguards on his left and right, and then four or five more at the rear. 

Mr Kim has fewer bodyguards than his father, Kim Jong-il, when the ratio was one guard to two of the senior officials accompanying him.