North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kim Jong Un Visits Rungna Island and Breast Cancer Research Institute

DPRK state media reported on 1 July 2012 that Kim Jong Un (4th R) inspected recreation facilities and a breast cancer research institute in Pyongyang, his first reported public appearances since June 7, 2012 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

DPRK state media reported on 1 July (Sunday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visited the construction of  a recreation park on Rungna Island in the Taedong River in Pyongyang.  KJU was also reported to have toured the Breast Cancer Research Institute at Pyongyang Maternity Hospital in the eastern part of the city.  These visits ended a 23-day gap in personal appearances; Kim Jong Un’s last reported public appearance was his attendance of a photo-op with participants in the Korean Children’s Union’s 66th anniversary conference on 7 June 2012.  At his visits to Rungna Island and the research institute KJU was accompanied by Jang Song Taek, Pak Chun Hong and Ma Won Chun.

Kim Jong Un (front, 2nd L) is briefed about construction of recreation facilities on Rungna Island in Pyongyang. Also seen in attendance is his uncle, National Defense Commission Vice Chairman and Party Administration Director Jang Song Taek (background, R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

On Rungna Island, Kim Jong Un inspected a dolphinarium and other support facilities for the DPRK’s recently acquired menagerie of dolphins.  He also visited the water tank where the dolphins will eventually give performances, as well as an informational exhibition on cetaceans and sharks.  According to KCNA, “looking round the cave-style room for the dissemination of science and technology, he stressed the need to build it in such a way as to help spectators acquire a variety of information. . .regarding ecology and features of aquatic animals including dolphin, shark and whale and other interesting information.”  Kim Jong Un then visited a small sports complex for basketball and volleyball and a wading pool, which he previously visited in April and May.  According to KCNA,  the Korean People’s Army [KPA] construction brigade working on the pool, “radically reshaped the wading pool in a matter of less than two months in hearty response to the intention of the Supreme Commander.”   KJU’s final stop on Rungna Island was an inspection of the construction of Rungna Alpamare, a water park, where “he acquainted himself in detail with the operation of equipment.”  His visit to the water park, but particularly its unique name, show some influence of Kim Jong Un’s formative years in Switzerland.

Kim Jong Un (3rd L) discusses the construction of the Rungna Alpamare with party construction manager Ma Won Chun (3rd R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Kim Jong Un’s last visit was to the ongoing construction of the Breast Cancer Research Institute at the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital, which was previously visited by DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim in mid-June.  According to KCNA, KJU said that “it is necessary to establish a proper health care system so as to prevent mastopathy and breast cancer in their early stages.”  He also “expressed expectation and conviction that soldier-builders would pay primary attention to the quality of construction and fully preserve the nature of the institute in the construction and thus successfully build the modern breast cancer institute to be proud of. . .’til the anniversary of the WPK foundation.”  The 1980 opening of the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital was tied to Kim Jong Il’s succession as one of his accomplishments.  According to some of the official folklore, KJI was motivated to have a hospital focused on maternal health constructed because his (and Kim Kyong Hui’s) mother, Kim Jong Suk, died delivering a stillborn.  While KCNA’s reporting claims that KJI “personally initiated” and “worked heart and soul to build” the additional Breast Cancer Research Institute, it is most likely tied to Kim Jong Un’s succession as his mother Ko Yong Hui died of breast cancer in 2004.

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July 2012