Pundits Detect Kim Jong-un's Hand in Rocket Surprise

North Korea's rocket launch on Wednesday drew global condemnation and made headlines around the world. It also seems to have established new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a force to reckon with.

Some pundits detect signs of the new leadership in the modus operandi. "North Korea sought to achieve a maximum effect by announcing a delay in the launch schedule even though it was in fact going ahead," said Lee Ki-dong at the Institute for National Security Strategy. "In the past, North Korea stuck to its official announcements, but it looks like it wanted to catch the world off guard this time."

Kim Jong-un's moves since taking power a year ago seem increasingly calculated to grab international media attention. The North unprecedentedly invited around 70 foreign journalists to the previous rocket launch attempt in April, though it rather ruined the effect by preventing them from leaving their hotel on the actual day of the launch.

In July, Kim started parading his pretty young wife Ri Sol-ju before the world in a well-orchestrated manner, also creating frenzied media attention. First she was only seen in official pictures without any explanation about who she was, and then her name and identity were revealed, leading South Korean and other international media to scrutinize every detail from background to fashion styles.

North Koreans dance to celebrate their countrys rocket launch in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo News on Wednesday. /Reuters-Yonhap North Koreans dance to celebrate their country's rocket launch in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo News on Wednesday. /Reuters-Yonhap

Kim, who was educated in a Swiss boarding school, attended a musical performance in July this year where dancers were dressed as Disney characters and the theme tune from the hoary boxing movie "Rocky" was played, which would also have been unimaginable under his father Kim Jong-il.

He also hopped on a rickety wooden boat and visited a small island just 7 km away from South Korea's Yeonpyeong Isand on the West Sea border. "All of those moves were aimed at portraying an image of a bold leader and intended to draw international media attention," said one government official here.

The regime also convened the rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly in September for the second time this year, although it met once a year when Kim senior was in power. This instantly drew attention from the international community and prompted wide speculation that the regime would discuss much-needed economic reforms, but in the end it only extended mandatory education.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 13, 2012 12:54 KST