Behind Kim Jong Un's 'people' bonanza: The Korea Herald

Kim Jong-un (front) waving to the crowd during a large-scale military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
Kim Jong-un (front) waving to the crowd during a large-scale military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.PHOTO: EPA

The North Korean leader perhaps now realises that he has to struggle to win the hearts of the masses and that he has competition.

John Cha

The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

For weeks preceding Oct 10, the 70th anniversary for the foundation of the Workers' Party of North Korea, the media was flooded with speculations that Kim Jong Un would launch a missile into space in celebration of the occasion.

The speculations were all for naught, as it turned out.

Instead of the touted missile, Kim launched a 25-minute speech, in which he recited the word "InMin" (meaning people) no less than 97 times.

In other words, he enunciated the word about four times a minute throughout his speech.

This sudden show of affection toward his people does seem out of place for a man known for his extreme cruelty.

His excessive reference to "people" can be interpreted in several different ways: one being that he has read and studied the founding socialist principles of North Korea, which proclaims that people are the first and the foremost consideration in the juche-based society, leading him to become a true believer of the founding principle of the republic.

He has actually become concerned about the people's welfare and seeks to reform the lackluster economic system.

Second interpretation: he is concerned about his popularity among the people and he means to placate the masses, who are reportedly disenchanted with his extravagant projects such as the ski resort, water park, and airport, while plebeians went hungry.

The masses are not relying on the Workers' Party for food any longer and they have less reason to remain loyal to the party.

Third, Kim J may have been inspired by Xi Jinping's speech at China's VJ (victory over Japan) celebrations on Sept 3, in which the Chinese president raised his fist and shouted, "Power to the people!"

Or, it may be that Kim was inspired by Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address advocating "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Well, whatever the case may be, his repeated reference to people is no less than revolutionary in a society in which the lives of the people belong to Suryong - the supreme leader - from the moment they are born.

Suryong decides who lives or dies, and only him.

That has been the way of life in North Korea since Kim Jong Il devised "Kim Il Sung's Ten Principles," the real governing doctrine, according to late Hwang Jang-yop, former International Secretariat of the Workers' Party who defected to the South in 1997. Hwang died on Oct. 10, 2010, by the way.

A question comes to mind: Is Kim Jong Un going away from the Suryong system?

Is it even possible that he could be loved after he had tried so hard to instill Machiavellian fear into his subjects?

There have been signs that the Workers' Party propaganda machinery is faltering, and those signs come directly from Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the party.

A while back, it described Pyongyang's intense campaign to emphasise the importance of the "revolutionary ideals."

The party has been expressing its concerns about the lack of socialist ideology in the minds of the population, ascribing it to the "infiltration of capitalist culture."

Rodong Sinmun's exhortation that "our socialist revolution will face a crisis if its ideological foundation became ill" is a warning sign that the capitalist culture (from the South) is influencing the population.

Young people in Pyongyang speak like the young people in Seoul, for instance.

The Rodong editorial goes on to say that "our enemies are attacking us with arrows containing reactionary ideology and psychological schemes in order to muddy our revolutionary spirit."

No doubt it referred to the barrage of information that has been flowing inward via cell phones, USB sticks, CD's, radio broadcasts and other networks.

This unwanted "infiltration" is real and vast, and it is little wonder that the party feels imperative to ramp up the efforts to educate the population in matters of ideology and spread the revolutionary spirit.

The party's urgency stems from the fact that "only a few first-generation revolutionaries remain."

Thus, they must teach the younger generation the true meaning of socialism before it's too late.

Perhaps Kim Jong Un now realises that he has to struggle to win the hearts of the masses and that he has competition.

That would explain his insistence that he is for the people.

I hope he continues this way of thinking.

Furthermore, I hope he puts his people-first concept into practice.

John Cha, an award-winning translator of Korean literature into English, writes in Oakland, California. He has written several biographies about Korean and American leaders, including "Willow Tree Shade: The Susan Ahn Cuddy Story," "The Do Or Die Entrepreneur," "Exit Emperor Kim Jong-il" and "A Small Key Opens Big Doors."