North Korea marked the 10th anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong Il on Friday by calling for increased public support for his son, current leader Kim Jong Un, who is attempting to steer the country out of worsening pandemic-related difficulties.
Kim Jong Un, 37, has consolidated the same absolute control held by Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather and state founder, in his ten years at the head of North Korea following his father’s death. North Korea exhibits no symptoms of political instability, despite major economic shocks produced by severe anti-virus measures and long-dormant talks with the US, and few outside analysts challenge Kim’s grasp on power.
However, some analysts believe that Kim Jong Un’s rule’s long-term stability may be jeopardized if he fails to take efforts to solve existing issues and improve public lives.
North Koreans sat quiet and bowed in reverence for Kim Jong Il as a siren blared for three minutes at noon on Friday. Cars, trains, and ships blared their horns, national flags were lowered to half-staff, and crowds climbed Pyongyang’s Mansu Hill to leave flowers and kneel before Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung’s massive monuments.
Choe Ryong Hae, a top North Korean official, referred to Kim Jong Il as “the parent of our people” who “built up the potentials for the North’s military and economic strength” during an outdoor ceremony. Choe stated that North Korea’s “strategic situation” has improved under Kim Jong Un’s leadership and asked the populace to “faithfully uphold” his leadership.
Articles praising Kim Jong Il and advocating for more unification behind Kim Jong Un were published in the North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
“Our great general (Kim Jong Il) went through so much difficulty, forging his way along such an arduous route, to establish a paradise here, obtaining what the people want,” Pyongyang inhabitant Won Jong Rim told the Associated Press Television News, echoing state propaganda.
On past anniversaries, Kim Jong Un paid his respects at a tomb where his father and grandfather’s embalmed remains lie in state. However, official media did not mention if he visited again this year.
A famine in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands of people, and Kim Jong Il’s 17-year leadership was overshadowed by international isolation over his nuclear ambitions. For the first five years of Kim Jong Un’s tenure, North Korea’s economy grew slowly but steadily. However, the pandemic of the coronavirus, mismanagement, and UN sanctions imposed in response to Kim’s nuclear and missile tests have taken their toll.
North Korea’s commerce with China, its most important commercial partner and economic conduit, fell by over 80% last year before plummeting by two-thirds in the first nine months of this year. According to South Korean official estimates, the North’s economy contracted at its fastest rate since 1997 last year, and grain output fell to its lowest level since Kim assumed power.
Kim has refused to resume discussions with the US and South Korea. He has advocated for a stronger, self-sufficient economy while maintaining severe virus controls, including two years of border closures. Analysts believe Kim is concerned that his country’s ailing public health system would be unable to cope with a significant viral epidemic, despite his dubious assertion that North Korea is clear of the coronavirus.
“North Korea cannot avoid harsh international sanctions unless it accepts proposals for disarmament discussions with the United States.” Due to fears about the spread of COVID-19, North Korea must continue to block off its borders in the absence of international cooperation. In a recent report, expert Cheong Seong-Chang of the private Sejong Institute in South Korea stated, “And this is a North Korean conundrum.”
Kim’s rule is based on the North’s growing nuclear weapons, which he refers to as “a strong cherished sword” that deters any US attack.
According to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, North Korea has conducted 62 rounds of ballistic missile tests during his 10-year rule, which are prohibited by successive United Nations Security Council resolutions. During Kim Il Sung’s 46-year leadership, there were an estimated nine rounds of tests, and 22 rounds during Kim Jong Il’s 17-year administration. Kim Jong Un was in charge of four of North Korea’s six nuclear tests and three intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
“North Korea commemorated Kim Jong Il’s 10-year commemoration with public celebrations and official propaganda. Kim Jong Un’s attempt to chart a credible path for post-pandemic diplomacy and economic recovery, after a decade in power, will be more crucial, according to Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.