Kim Jong-un Looks Pensive at Memorial Ceremony

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared somber at a ceremony Tuesday marking the second anniversary of the death of his father Kim Jong-il.

He has plenty of reasons to be pensive after the purge and execution of his uncle Jong Song-taek and his cronies, but his mien at the event contrasted with the untroubled expression he wore as he toured a planned ski resort just after Jang was executed.

Kim was the first to appear at the memorial and sat in the center of the rostrum of guests. He applauded as he listened to speeches and eulogies by Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's ceremonial head of state, and military Politburo chief Choe Ryong-hae.

Kim sat stony-faced during most of the ceremony and did not look at the speakers. He was the only guest at the memorial who lounged sideways in his seat.

Since very little factual information leaks out from the paranoid North Korean regime, experts here are reduced to making what they can of such public appearances.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sits stony-faced at a ceremony on Tuesday marking the second anniversary of his father Kim Jong-ils death. /[North] Korean Central News Agency North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sits stony-faced at a ceremony on Tuesday marking the second anniversary of his father Kim Jong-il's death. /[North] Korean Central News Agency

◆ Pressures

Some believe they have spotted the murderous dictator's vulnerable side. Seoul National University psychologist Kwak Keum-joo said Kim's attitude and facial expression appeared to reflect "emotional agitation following the execution of his uncle and psychological worries over his future."

Kwak speculated Kim is displaying signs of a "father complex," in which the son of a famous father feels unable to match his achievements -- though it is not clear what exactly Kim Jong-il's achievements were.

◆ Image-Making

But others say it was a calculated act. PR expert Kang Jin-joo said, "As we can see from the way Kim Jong-un imitates his grandfather Kim Il-sung from the way he applauds down to each gesture, he is skilled at developing his image."

Kang said Kim's expression during the memorial ceremony suggests he "was either under psychological stress or it was all part of a sophisticated image-making strategy."

In other words, Kim intentionally sought to appear somber to win over the hearts of North Koreans who may have been shocked by the barbaric execution of his uncle.

◆ Show of Authority

Others say Kim's face and body language expressed confidence. Kim Yong-hyun at Dongguk University said the memorial ceremony itself was somber, and Kim's expression aimed at showing his "will" to tackle the country's difficulties.

Kim lounged rather casually in his chair, and while other officials applauded with a show of rapturous enthusiasm, Kim's reaction was mechanical.

Lim Eul-chul at Kyungnam University said Kim expressed "now even stronger gravity and authority."

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 18, 2013 12:17 KST

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