N.Korea's Smiling New Leader

      February 06, 2012 12:32

      The North Korean regime is apparently trying to project a more cheerful image of new leader Kim Jong-un, who is seen wreathed in smiles in the latest official pictures. Kim was pictured smiling during visits to military bases, holding the hands of soldiers and even whispering in their ears in an apparent bid to stress a sense of camaraderie.

      Choi Jin-wook at the Korea Institute of National Unification said, "When Kim Il-sung died in 1994, Kim Jong-il ordered a lengthy mourning period which led to a depressed atmosphere that exacerbated economic woes. Kim Jong-un is seen smiling a lot because they learned the lessons of 1994." In other words, Kim Jong-un is acting as a kind of cheerleader after the potentially destabilizing death of his father Kim Jong-il.

      New North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front) smiles during a visit to a military base in this undated photo released on Jan. 20 by the [North] Korean Central News Agency. /KCNA-Yonhap

      A government official here said, "North Korea may appear stable from the outside, but the situation internally must be urgent and intense. The theory is bolstered every time I see Kim Jong-un trying to imitate his grandfather even in the way he smiles."

      It sits oddly with North Korea's strong Confucian traditions for a bereaved son to go around grinning before the 49-day official mourning period that ended on Friday is over. North Korean propaganda officials, who carefully stage all the new leader's movements, must be fully aware of this. But they apparently decided that it is more important to consolidate his hold on power by whatever means necessary.

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