North Korea’s Kim Jong-un wept at a military parade and repeatedly apologised for his people’s suffering from a string of typhoons and COVID-19.
But the portly dictator isn’t channelling his Mister Rogers, analysts have revealed. He’s desperate.
Kim is pulling a “man-of-the-people” routine because North Koreans are coming to find out that just how bad life could get — from information being smuggled in via thumb drives and illegal radios, said Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
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The people are learning about a food shortage — brought on by US-backed sanctions, the global pandemic and natural disasters — that could match a famine that took at least 2.5 million lives in the 1990s, when Kim’s father ruled.
Already, many families can’t afford two meals a day, some may even be starving and some are homeless, an independent expert told the United Nations this week.
The expert laid the blame at Kim’s feet for not providing financial support or giving out food, and for the fast-growing number of street children, which is “an indicator of a deteriorating economic situation.”
Kim has stepped in to house the kids in government centres, but they’re so miserable that the kids are running away. And when they do escape, the expert told the UN, they get hauled back inside so they can’t spread the coronavirus.
“His people are going through tremendous hardship, and it could get much worse,” David Maxwell, a North Korea specialist at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Post. “Their suffering, of course, is a direct result of Kim’s policies. All the money is spent on missiles and weaponry, nothing for the people.”
Kim’s warm-and-cuddly act is borrowed from the family playbook to keep citizens from turning on him, analysts said.
His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who founded North Korea and presided when the country was in its heyday, had the same cheesy grin and was known for warmly greeting the public, especially children. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, was a sombre, badly-dressed recluse.
“Kim Il Sung was the George Washington of North Korea. He is beloved. Even escapees still remember him with love,” Maxwell said. “Invoking the image of Kim Il Sung is a way to lift their morale.”
Kim’s extra padding isn’t by chance, either.
“He and his grandfather were chubby on purpose,” Sean King, an Asian expert at Park Strategies, told the Post. “It gives them a softer, more parental look. They’ve always talked about the “warm bosom” of the Dear Leader. Corpulence is seen as strategic. So are the crocodile tears and apologies.”
But King and Scarlatoiu aren’t buying the facade.
“This is somebody who killed his own uncle and half-brother,” King said. “Everything the Kim family does is to hold on to power.”
And Scarlatoiu is convinced Kim would never look vulnerable if he really was.
“The Kims are very shrewd, very cunning and very intelligent,” he said. “Kim is hoping that emulating his grandfather will keep the people on his side.”
This story was published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission.