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NK Stages Elaborate Propaganda Plot for Successor

Posted October. 01, 2010 22:59,   


North Korea is known to have meticulously planned a long-term propaganda operation before releasing photos containing Kim Jong Un, the heir apparent to leader Kim Jong Il.

Pyongyang’s idea is to produce political effects from the reincarnation of the North’s late founder Kim Il Sung.

○ Reincarnation drama planned for a long time

It was learned Friday that the North Korean leadership since last year has strategically shown Kim Jong Un’s face in various photos of Kim Jong Il giving guidance at industrial or military sites. Pyongyang skillfully used its media to give its people the impression that they had seen the junior Kim somewhere last year.

While reporting on Kim Jong Il’s visit to a new greenhouse at Wonsan University of Agriculture, the state-run (North) Korean Central Television showed photos of the leader’s two sons and one daughter together with key leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party. Though the broadcast did not give their identities, it made North Koreans unconsciously aware of them.

The North’s leadership has also used as propaganda Kim Jong Un’s resemblance to Kim Il Sung. The text of educational materials on Kim Jong Un obtained by the leading Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun emphasized how the junior Kim looks like his grandfather and father.

In addition, North Korean television has aired since April a series of documentaries on Kim Il Sung’s achievements.

Finally, the TV station took advantage of a major event -- the rare conference of the Workers’ Party -- to show Kim Jong Un, who was dressed up as his grandfather. In particular, Pyongyang apparently made him look like Kim Il Sung in his late 30s and 40s possibly because the chubby Kim Jong Un could not pass for a younger Kim Il Sung.

The late North Korean leader was relatively slender in his 20s and 30s before rapidly gaining weight from his late 30s. Kim Jong Il reportedly gained weight on purpose to imitate his father after being appointed successor in 1974.

Pyongyang apparently made a strategic decision to postpone the conference until Tuesday despite its original schedule for early September in an attempt to maximize the effect of Kim Jong Un’s public debut.

Experts say the North avoided a period when public sentiment was not favorable due to heavy flood damage that hit several major cities in mid-August.

○ Role of a propaganda expert

The elaborate propaganda operation for the heir apparent was reportedly orchestrated by Kim Ki Nam, a Workers’ Party secretary for propaganda and agitation. Educated at Kim Il Sung University and Mankyongdae Revolutionary School, Kim Ki Nam is one of Kim Jong Il’s closest aides and has devoted his career to idolizing and propagandizing the leader and his late father.

Cho Min, senior researcher at Seoul’s state-funded Korea Institute for National Unification, said Kim Ki Nam fabricated the “slogan trees” myth in 1987 to idolize the Kims. The myth has it that trees were found throughout the North with slogans praising the Kim family.

kyle@donga.com zsh75@donga.com