North Korean state-run media, by far the strongest tool in Kim Jong Un’s sweeping propaganda, has made another incredulous claim about the power Kim Jong Un and his family hold.
After the Supreme Leader’s recent visit to Mount Paektu, the tallest mountain peak in North Korea, Ro Dong news agency released a series of images of a smiling Kim followed by a statement that the “peerlessly illustrious commander” can control “nature.”
Braving the deep snow and temperatures well below zero, Kim Jong Un ascended the top of the 9,000-foot active volcano to celebrate the recent successful nuclear missile launch. Mount Paektu is believed to be the birthplace of Dangun, the founder of the first Korean kingdom, and is considered to be the country’s spiritual home. Kim’s father, the late Kim Jong Il, also claimed he was born in a secret military camp on the mountain.
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Despite a powerful blizzard raging through the mountain, Kim Jong Un’s arrival gave way to “fine weather unprecedented,” KCNA reported. The entire account of Kim’s journey up the mountain was covered by and published in North Korea’s official state newspaper the Rodong Sinmun.
“Imposingly standing on Janggun Peak, the respected Supreme Leader gave a familiar look for a while at the dizzy cliffs and the sea of trees, recalling the emotion-charged days when he realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force without yielding even a moment and with the indomitable faith and will of Paektu.”
The report also claims the mountain offered a “warm welcome” to the dictator as it showed “joy at the appearance of the peerlessly illustrious commander who controls nature.”
Why does this matter?
One can be tempted to dismiss this as just another instance of ridiculous propaganda surrounding Kim Jong Un and the power he holds in North Korea. However, despite the bizarre claims made by the state media, Kim Jong Un’s visit to Mount Paektu is more important than the sunshine it brought.
The visit itself was the first public outing of the dictator since the November 28 nuclear missile launch. As reported by KCNA, the state-run news agency, a walk on the mountain gave Kim a chance to think about the “emotion-charged days when he realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force without yielding even a moment.”
It also sparked speculation that Kim was planning a significant political event, as almost all of his past visits to the mountain were followed by decisive changes in the political regime and important decisions regarding the country’s economy.
In late November 2013, Kim visited Mount Paektu a month before the infamous execution of North Korea’s top government officials, including his uncle Jang Song-Thaek, Vice Chairman of the National Defence Commision of North Korea.
His visit in April 2015 proceeded the firing and reported execution of Hyon Yong-Chol, the North Korean Minister of People’s Armed Forces. In September 2015, Mount Paektu also saw another visit from the dictator, this time after a semi-successful nuclear test earlier that month.
According to South Korean Intelligence sources, Kim’s sudden visit to the “sublime mountain of revolution,” as Mount Paektu is often referred to, could be an indicator of major political and economic changes in the country.
Just how far-reaching and extensive these changes will be is still largely unknown, but considering the latest warning issued by U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as the new sanctions South Korea plans on imposing, it’s most likely that the changes will affect North Korea’s military and defense systems.
The two-day missile tracking drills currently being conducted by allied forces consisting of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea are a direct answer to Kim Jong Un’s last month missile test and might be followed by reciprocal action from North Korea.
With the U.S. putting more and more pressure on China and other nations to cut trade and diplomatic trade with the rogue state, and the unstable state the country is already in, the current bout of propaganda seems nothing more than an attempt to hard-sell North Korea’s military might.