North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kim Jong Un Attends Performance and Visits PY Construction Projects

DPRK media reported on 15 January that Kim Jong Un attended a concert with members of the central leadership.  Yonhap reports:

Kim, who was promoted to Supreme Commander of the North’s all-powerful Korean People’s Army (KPA), attended the performance titled “We Will Hold Our Supreme Commander in High Esteem for All Ages” in a national music hall, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said in a report.

The media did not, however, report when the performance took place.

Accompanying Kim to the show were top-tier military officers including Ri Yong-ho, the chief of the General Staff of the (North) Korean People’s Army; Jang Song-thaek, vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission; and Kim Yong-chun, the People’s Armed Forces Minister, as well as other key military figures, according to the state news agency.

The show was composed of solos, a chorus and dance performances dedicated to and extolling Kim Jong-un and his father and late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The show highly praised the immortal achievement of the general (Kim Jong-il) who led our country to become the world’s military power and a dignified nuclear holder, the report noted.

The media also quoted Kim as saying after watching the show that “It was a performance that powerfully demonstrated the true revolutionary characteristics of the KPA.”

The latest outing is Kim’s second reported public attendance to a musical event after he inherited the country from Kim Jong-il, who the north said died of heart failure on Dec. 17.

The reporting of Kim’s visit to the culture event, designed to extol the leader family, is seen as a key move to highlight the legitimacy of the power transfer.

Kim Jong Un visits a miniaturized replica of Pyongyang, which was reported by DPRK media in January 2012. In the background is a model of the Ryugyong Hotel (Photo: KCNA)

On 11 January it was reported that Kim Jong Un visited several ongoing construction projects.  It was his first reported public appearance since his attendance of a concert by the U’nhasu Orchestra with members of the central leadership on 1 January; it was his third reported public appearance since funeral events for Kim Jong Il were held at the end of December 2011.  KCNA English did not report the names of any of the officials who accompanied him on the visit.  Based on available images of his visit, KJU was accompanied by Gen. Kim Won Hong, chief functionary of the Military Security Command [MSC].

Kim Jong Un (R) talking to KPA service members on a construction project. Seen in the center, facing the camera, is Gen. Kim Won Hong (Photo: KCNA)

Members of the Korean People's Army attending a ceremony at Ku'msusan Memorial Hall on Monday, 9 January 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

KJU’s visit to Pyongyang was reported not long after the Korean People’s Army [KPA] conducted a loyalty oath ceremony at Ku’msusan Memorial Palace.  Speakers at the ceremony included VMar Ri Yong Ho, chief of the KPA General Staff, and Gen. Pak Jae Gyong, deputy director of the KPA General Political Department.  Also among those in attendance were National Defense Commission [NDC] Vice-chairman and Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Kim Yong Chun, NDC Member and KPA General Political Department senior deputy (vice) director, Gen. Kim Jong Gak and commanding officers of the KPA’s service branches.  KCNA reports:

A message of pledge to Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of the WPK and the Korean people, was read out by Ri Yong Ho at the rally.

All the service personnel of the KPA more keenly felt the mission of the arms of Mt. Paektu through the unswerving Songun will of Kim Jong Un who solemnly declared that he would accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche the way Kim Jong Il did with a firm hold on the party and the army during the mourning in December in bitter tears, the message said.

The service personnel of the three services of the KPA see an immensely rosy future of Kim Il Sung’s nation and Kim Jong Il’s Korea and feel firmly convinced of a reunified thriving nation, when watching Kim Jong Un standing at the forefront commanding post of the revolution, shouldering upon himself the destiny of the country and the nation, it noted, and went on:

We will build a ten thousands-fold bulwark for protecting the supreme commander and become rifles and bombs to serve as Kim Jong Un first line lifeguards and Kim Jong Un first line death-defying corps by more dynamically conducting the movement for winning the title of the O Jung Hup-led Seventh Regiment, holding high the slogan “Let Us Defend the Party Central Committee Headed by the dear respected Comrade Kim Jong Un with Our Lives!” despite any storm and stress.

We will lead the whole country and all the people in the general offensive to carry out the tasks laid in the decision of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, the joint calls of the C.C. and the Central Military Commission of the WPK and the joint New Year editorial and bring about uninterrupted innovations in combat training, arms and equipment mobilization preparations, the establishment of steel-like military discipline and noble moral traits and lifestyle and the bolstering of companies.

We will successfully play the role as a standard-bearer and shock brigade in the grand advance for this year to significantly commemorate the centenary of birth of President Kim Il Sung, the 70th birth anniversary of Kim Jong Il and the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the KPA.

The message stressed that the whole army would more sharply whet the bayonets of the revolution so that it may dash ahead like the wind and wipe out the enemies to the last one if they intrude into the inviolable sky, land and seas of the country even 0.001 mm and thus accomplish the historic cause of national reunification without fail.

Loudly shouting “Devoted Defence of Kim Jong Un!” and “National Reunification” in response to the message of pledge, all the participants made a solemn pledge to carry through the behests of Kim Jong Il and remain true to the leadership of Kim Jong Un.

Speeches were made at the rally to evince their resolutions on behalf of service personnel of the three services of the KPA.

Noting that all the officers and men of the KPA are the descendants of the President and soldiers and disciples of Kim Jong Il, who have grown up under the care of the great persons born of Mt. Paektu, the speakers pledged themselves to hold the President and Kim Jong Il in high esteem for all ages and firmly defend and glorify the Songun revolutionary feats of Kim Jong Il for all eternity.

Chief of the KPA General Staff, VMAR Ri Yo'ng-ho (6th R, front row), speaks at a "pledge" ceremony of KPA service members on 9 January 2012 in Pyongyang (Photo: KCNA)

The KPA loyalty oath ceremony was one of several large scale events for which the party has mobilized numerous DPRK citizens.  Since the publication of the New Year’s editorial and the joint calls of the CC KWP and CMC, and the Political Bureau’s assenting to KJU’s appointment as KPA Supreme Commander, similar events have been held by the party in Pyongyang and Hamhu’ng as well as meetings of athletes, industrial workers, the Korean Democratic Women’s Union and agricultural workers.

Members of the DPRK's central leadership attend a concert at 25 April House of Culture in January 2012. Seen in attendance (L-R): Gen. Kim Jong Gak; Jang Song Taek; VMar Kim Yong Chun; VMar Ri Yong Ho; Kim Yong Nam; Choe Yong Rim; and Kim Ki Nam (Photo: KCNA)

On 9 January DPRK media reported that the country’s central political leadership attended a concert at “the wonderfully-renovated” 25 April House of Culture.  KCNA did not report when the performance occurred or what KPA-based troupe gave the concert.  Eight (8) paragraphs review the songs and the intensity of the performances and the item ends with a short paragraph on the songs about KJU:

There were also such songs as “Footstep” and “We Will Safeguard General Kim Jong Un with Our Lives” that reflect the firm pledge of the KPA to surely carry forward to completion the revolutionary cause of juche, the revolutionary cause of songun started in Mt. Paektu, with arms, holding the dear respected Kim Jong Un in high esteem as the supreme commander.

Party Secretary Choe Ryong Hae (2nd row L) is seen posing for a photo with Kim Jong Un (2nd R) at a visit to a KPA unit. (Photo: KCTV-Yonhap)

Kim Jong Un visits an education room in Chagang Province in October 2011. Kim Jong Il was also present, but the Kims' joint appearance does not appear in the film.

On 8 January 2012 DPRK media aired a 50-minute documentary film Succeeding to the Revolutionary Cause of Paektu which merges footage of Kim Jong Un with his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung.  KJU is depicted as “forming a relationship with the gun barrel from early on.”  KJU is show visiting KPA units, being briefed about munitions production.  He is also shown attending KJI’s observation of the launch of the U’nha-2 rocket in April 2009, which DPRK media said was the launch of the Kwangmyo’so’ng-2 satellite.  At a commemorative photo session, KJU shakes hands with party director Ju Kyu Chang, who then formally introduces KJU to Jon Pyong Ho, the former long-time party manager of the ballistic missile program.  The film’s narrator claims that KJU “issued an order to proclaim…the will of military-first Korea to mercilessly crush even the stronghold of enemies should they intercept the missile and ruthlessly crush the enemies’ fleet and intercept system should they attack.”

Kim Jong Un talking during a joint military exercise. Seen in attendance are Col. Gen. Kim Yong Chol (2nd L), Gen. Kim Won Hong (3rd L) and VMar Kim Yong Chun (R)

Jang Song Taek (R) has only a few cameos in the KJU film

Kim Jong Il smokes a cigarette while being briefed on military exercises by Gen. Kim Myo'ng-kuk (center) in 2010 (Photo: KCTV-Yonhap)

Featured members of the leadership appearing in the film include Ri Yong Ho, Kim Jong Gak, Kim Yong Chol, Kim Won Hong, Gen. Ri Myong Su and Gen. Kim Myong Kuk.   Interestingly, Kim Myong Kuk was filmed both with three (sangjang) and four (taejang) stars on his shoulder which may indicate KJU’s role in Gen. Kim’s temporary demotion in early 2010  According to images from KJU’s visit to the 105th Tank Division in January 2012, this may have happened again at the corps-division level.  The image of a general-grade officer who was temporarily reduced in rank allows the leadership to portray itself as powerful, but also forgiving or benevolent.  This temporary purge of “revolutionization” was practiced by Kim Jong Il, particularly within the central party.  Nearly every current member of the central leadership has gone through the process (at least once).

In viewing the film Dong-a Ilbo finds KJU referring to his mother, Ko Yong Hui:

Airing a documentary on Kim called “Inheriting the Great Achievements of the Military-first Revolution of (Mount) Baekdu,” the North`s Korean Central TV contained the leader`s statements in which he mentioned his mother, Koh Young Hee. The mention appeared in a section of the program in which Kim Jong Un emphasizes loyalty to his father.

The program`s narrator quoted Kim Jong Un as saying, “Once on Feb. 16 (Kim Jong Il’s birthday), (Kim Jong Un) spent all night with his mother waiting for the General (Kim Jong Il), who had yet to return from an onsite inspection tour.” Since Kim Jong Un debuted as successor at a Workers` Party convention in September 2009, North Korean media has not mentioned his mother for nearly three years.

Ko Yong Hui “basked in” Kim Jong Il’s “special affections.”  She attended to him while he recuperated from a severe concussion and, later on, after Kim Il Sung died in July 1994.  Her actual political influence on KJI’s calculations remains open to interpretation by Pyongyang watchers.  Ko’s increasing power, or the perception thereof, in the 1990s frightened some members of the Kim Family and other DPRK elites.  The waxing influence of “the button nose” factored into Song Hye Rang’s decision to leave the country in 1996.

Kim Jong Nam

Song’s nephew and KJI’s eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, had a series of exchanges with a Japanese journalist beginning in January 2011.  The content of those exchanges will be released on 20 January (Friday).  Jong Nam told the journalist that “the existing power elite will probably take over my father’s authority, making Jong Un a symbol.”  AFP (via Korea Herald) reports:

The reporter interviewed Kim in Macao and Beijing last year for a total of around seven hours, the agency said.

Jong-Un was propelled to power by the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, which was announced on December 19.

His half-brother Jong-Nam has lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau, for many years after falling out of favour with his father, who in turn inherited the rule of the impoverished country from his own father.

Two years ago and with his health rapidly deteriorating, Kim Jong-Il moved Jong-Un — believed to be in his late 20s — into the position of designated successor, giving him military posts and raising his profile.

Jong-Nam last year gave an interview to the Tokyo Shimbun in which he said he opposed the idea of a power transfer within North Korea’s first family.

“Hereditary succession did not happen even under Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong,” he said at the time. “(Hereditary succession) does not fit socialism and my father was against it.”

Tokyo Shimbun said Jong-Nam did not directly respond to questions over whether he attended the elaborate funeral and memorial ceremony for his father in North Korea.

Earlier this month, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported Jong-Nam secretly visited Pyongyang after learning about his father’s death, and before it was publicly announced two days later.

 Kim Jong Nam had spoken to his father in early summer in 2011 and concluded that KJI’s health was deteriorating.

3 comments on “Kim Jong Un Attends Performance and Visits PY Construction Projects

  1. Pingback: Kim Jong Un Attends Performance and Visits PY Construction Projects | NK News

  2. Pingback: North Korean Economy Watch » Blog Archive » Kim Jong-un’s January 2011

  3. Pingback: Korea-Related Trivia #18: More Than 50% of North Koreans 15+ Smoke Cigarettes? |

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January 2012