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Kim Jong Un's public activities halve this year

Posted August. 18, 2023 08:13,   

Updated August. 18, 2023 08:25


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s public activities this year have reportedly decreased by half compared to previous years. Particularly, Kim's public engagements have focused more on military agendas rather than the economy, a response to worsening public sentiment due to severe food shortages across North Korea.

According to the Unification Ministry on Thursday, Kim's public appearances have totaled 57 times this year, and for the first half of the year alone, they reached 32 times, which is half the average of 62 times for the first half of previous years. In terms of specific sectors, his military-related activities were more than seven times higher at 30 times compared to just four times in the economic sector. Since coming to power in 2011, Kim's public appearances, which used to reach 100 to 200 times annually, have decreased to double digits since 2017.

Amid deteriorating economic conditions and the concomitant increase in organized and serious crimes within North Korea, there is also an observed trend of strengthening the North Korean dictator’s security. In April of this year, photos were released showing security personnel carrying a black bag, suspected of a bomb-proof bag, around the North Korean leader, especially after an incident involving an attempted explosive attack targeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

During the early years of Kim Jong Un's rule in the mid-2010s, North Korea conducted training exercises that included "leader assassination" scenarios to counter potential terrorist attempts against Kim. After executing his uncle Jang Song Taek in 2013, it is reported that Kim Jong Un has significantly enhanced preparations to quell potential domestic disturbances. In April 2017, the Tokyo Shimbun reported an attempt to bomb Kim Jong Un's private train during a labor party congress held in 2016, which was foiled before execution.

Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, also experienced multiple assassination attempts during his lifetime, which led to increased security measures and a preference for secretive travel. According to leaked documents on WikiLeaks in 2011, Kim Jong Il believed that the 2004 Ryongchon Station train explosion was an assassination attempt. The explosion occurred immediately after Kim's train passed through Ryongchon station upon his return from a visit to China. In April 2017, the British Daily Telegraph quoted a high-ranking North Korean defector who claimed that there were two failed assassination attempts and coup plots each against Kim Jong Il only to little avail.

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com