North Korea’s factional divides were hard to read before “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il died. Now that his son appears to have taken over, Pyongyang is in lockdown mode. No one knows what’s happening in the back rooms that really decide who runs North Korea. But here’s one telling sign: the official mouthpieces are all singing the praises of the Dear Leader’s chubby-cheeked boy, Kim Jong-un.
Not that they’ve quit their day job: mourning Kim Jong-il’s death by churning out over-the-top stories of grief and mourning. But amid the tears and hagiography, the official hacks are ginning up tales of loyalty from the military and the “people” to twentysomething Kim Jong-un. That gives “Lil Kim” at least the appearance of inevitability as the new boss.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) gave Kim Jong-un the telling moniker of “Great Successor,” dubbing him the “outstanding leader of our party, army and people.”
KCNA is also pumping out man-on-the-street style interviews to convince the world that the average North Korean totally loves Kim junior. “General Kim Jong Un is the prominent leader of our party, army and people. We will remain faithful to his leadership under whatever circumstances with deep trust in him only,” KCNA quotes a 20-year-old student saying.
Notice KCNA referred to Kim Jong-un by the title “General,” even though the guy never served in uniform. His father supposedly feared that Kim Jong-un’s lack of experience in the armed services would make his succession unpalatable to the North’s powerful officer corps. So Kim made Junior a four-star general by fiat and made sure the kid got plenty of visibility during his own military misadventures. KCNA is playing along.
And so — perhaps — is the military. One KCNA story quotes a young soldier promising that the army will “devotedly safeguard General Kim Jong Un with arms, closely rallied as one in mind around him.” Another piece is more restrained, quoting an officer pledging he’ll be “true to the leadership of Kim Jong Un.”
Meanwhile, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Rodong Sinmun, is giving Kim Junior the large print treatment. The newspaper’s special edition on the Dear Leader’s death put each mention of Kim Jong-un’s name in a conspicuously large font.
Of course, just because something’s in the news doesn’t mean its true. That goes double for North Korean propaganda stories. A faction of the North Korean military could move to block Kim Jong-un’s succession. Or he could glide into power without a hitch. Either way, count on Pyongyang’s propaganda organs to sing the glorious praises of the hero of the noble people’s Juche revolution — whomever he turns out to be.