It seems that Kim Jong-un resembles his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, in ways beyond mere facial features. Although we still know very little about young Kim’s political vision for North Korea, one clear emphasis early on of the new DPRK leader has been an array of public appearances. If one goes to the Korean Central News Agency’s homepage (the official state, and only, news organization in North Korea), one is bombarded with images of a smiling Kim making the rounds with a group of loyal followers in various industries and cultural events:
All these public appearances and photo-ops deliberately hark back to the days of DPRK founder Kim Il-sung, far and away the most revered and adored figure in North Korea today. The founding father of the DPRK made it a point to appear at numerous factories and ceremonies in order to inspire his people (so they could work harder) and develop his image as an involved, caring, loving familial figure. Kim Jong-un is taking a page out of his grandfather’s book, posing with children, officials, and soldiers all around the country.
Notably, many of the venues where Kim is pictured involve North Korean industry — factories, groceries, tourist spots, etc. (One recent propaganda video shows a lengthy inspection through a newly opened meat “shop” in Pyongyang.) There have been signs that Kim is moving away from the military-first policies of his father toward a focus on living standards and economic improvement, and many of the pictures back this up. A recent Foreign Policy entry cataloged the “inspector in chief’s” many public visits, where the leader is photographed at an amusement park, basketball court, development site, musical performance, and more (for the full FP slideshow, click here):
One of the most fascinating aspects of the North Korean regime is its ability to cultivate lasting feelings of admiration and affection within its people while simultaneously keeping their individual freedoms violently constrained. Even in the face of brutal famines and economic hardships, the DPRK leadership has found a way to inspire its citizens. With all these smiling photo-ops, the newest leader in the Kim dynasty is trying to cement his place in the hearts and minds of ordinary North Koreans. Only time will tell whether he will succeed or not.