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N. Korean leader reduces public activities for fear of ‘decapitation op’

N. Korean leader reduces public activities for fear of ‘decapitation op’

Posted December. 29, 2017 07:59,   

Updated December. 29, 2017 08:23


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reduced his public activities by about 30 percent in 2017 from previous years, Japanese daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on Thursday, citing Radio Press, which specializes in North Korean affairs.

According to the newspaper, the North Korean media reported 102 cases of Kim’s public activities this year until Wednesday, once in 3.5 days on average, down by about 30 percent from 141 cases in 2016 and 155 in 2015.

The daily reported that Kim is usually active at dawn in order to avoid being detected by U.S. surveillance satellites and uses a Lexus vehicle that he gave to a senior official as a present rather than using his own Mercedes-Benz.

The National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s spy agency, also reported in June that the North Korean leader had decreased his public activities and used a close confidant’s car for fear of the South’s “decapitation operation” targeting him. His reduced outside activities also served as a signal for the North’s ballistic missile launch or a nuclear test. The Japanese daily said that he disappeared from the media from a week or two before a major provocation.

Among the 102 reported public appearances, about half involved his presence at missile launch sites or inspection of military drills. His military-related activities increased by around 10 percent this year from 2015 and 2016, indicating Pyongyang’s intention to highlight his military accomplishments including the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

By contrast, North Korean media reports on Kim’s public activities involving the economy totaled 19 cases this year, just 20 percent of the total. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun said that Kim has made frequent visits to industrial factories or farms since September 11, when the United Nations Security Council imposed stricter sanctions on the North. The daily commented that his encouragement of increased production hints at his anxiety.

Won-Jae Jang peacechaos@donga.com