How (not) to kill Kim Jong Un

At the innermost ring are five to six elite, handpicked bodyguards from the brigade-sized Office of Adjutants, also known as Office No. 6, who directly protect the Kims. (It’s the loose equivalent of the U.S. Secret Service — except with 20 times as many people, in a country a fraction of the size of America.) The Kims’ personal guards are senior officers who have proved their reliability and loyalty through years of service in North Korea’s Guard Command, a 100,000-member unit devoted to the security of the Kim family and the upper levels of North Korean officialdom. Other Guard Command soldiers, picked from families with no known ties to Pyongyang’s communist elite, provide the next layers of protection around Kim Jong Un, surrounding him at events, official visits, and on personal travel, as well as protecting his various residences.

The capital itself is protected by the Pyongyang Defense Command and Pyongyang Air Defense Command, which would fight within the city and defend its airspace in the event of a major war or coup attempt. Outside of Pyongyang, the 3rd Corps of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) comprises the final, most heavily armed ring, guarding the western approaches to Pyongyang from the port of Nampo north to the Chongchon River.

A handful of agencies also conduct surveillance within the North to act as an early tripwire for signs of disloyalty and coup plots in the making.