Here's why Kim Jong Un is always surrounded by people taking notes

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the exhibition of utensils and tools, finishing building materials and sci-tech achievements organised by the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) May 13, 2017.KCNA / via REUTERSThey’re hanging on his every word, apparently.

Like many world leaders, Kim Jong Un is often photographed giving talks, inspecting schools and farms and attending various ceremonies.

He’s always surrounded by an entourage of acolytes, often senior military figures or government officials.

What’s most intriguing is what his entourage are doing in nearly every single photo they appear in with him.

They have notebooks open and pens out, ready to jot down any snippets of wisdom that the leader may bestow at any moment.

According to Professor James Grayson, Korea expert at the University of Sheffield, the note-taking is a tradition instigated by Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

“It’s part of the image of the great leader offering benevolent guidance,” Grayson told the BBC.

The religious note-taking is probably more about image than genuine erudition, though: “These are pictures that will be broadcast on television and shown in the state media,” Grayson says. “It’s important… that the apparatchiks that surround him are seen to be hanging on his every word.”

The consequences of jotting down the wrong point could be severe, Professor Steve Tsang, Director of SOAS China Institute, told the BBC.

“They wouldn’t want to write down anything that was, say, politically inaccurate, or it might come back to bite them,” said Tsang.

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