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Wednesday, July 15

North Korea: The Straw Hat Signal, more than an image makeover

2015
"Kim Jong Un's frequent replacement of top-ranking military officers is an indication the leader is phasing out Songun, or "military-first" policies that were in place in the 1990s."

2014

Meeting Ri at a Pyongyang hospital Kim asked the boy about what he was doing. Ri said he was just watching television, to which Kim asked what he was watching.

"I saw you Dear Leader," Ri answered.

Kim quipped, "It must have been no fun."

"It is unusual for North Korea's dictator to make such a joke to a member of the public, and almost unthinkable for the communist nation's propaganda machine to report it."


North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-sung wearing a straw hat. The North's current leader Kim Jong-un wearing a straw hat. (KCNA-Yonhap)


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the 810 army unit’s Salmon farms in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. Reuters May 31, 2015

July 13, 2015

Idolization of North Korea's previous leaders eroding under Kim Jong Un
By Elizabeth Shim
UPI

SEOUL, July 13 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is turning away from the "military-first" policies of previous decades, and the idolization of previous North Korean leaders is diminishing, according to analysts.

The recent evidence is coming from North Korea, where the opening of a new airport terminal and a state-held musical performance were marked by the absence of Kim Il Sung images, South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported.

Pyongyang's airport has featured the portrait of the North Korea founder for decades – and it has been a hallmark and photographic point of interest. A July opening of a new terminal, however, included no images of Kim Il Sung inside the airport, although video of the event showed large images of the two former leaders erected above the crowd outside the terminal.

South Korean newspaper Herald Business reported a recent performance of the all-women band Moranbong on Monday also showed telltale signs of a political turn away from Kim Il Sung, as well as Kim Jong Il idolization.

Video footage that accompanied the performance showed only images of Kim Jong Un, a significant departure from past performances that ran images of Kim Il Sung and Kim's father, the late Kim Jong Il.

An anonymous source on North Korea told Munhwa Ilbo that Kim Jong Un's frequent replacement of top-ranking military officers is an indication the leader is phasing out Songun, or "military-first" policies that were in place in the 1990s.

The source said Kim's excessive demand of loyalty and shocking purges are part of his strategy to weaken the military's position in the state system.

Jeong Sung-jang, a senior researcher at South Korea's Sejong Institute, said non-military bureaucrats now occupy directorships of the Korean People's Army.

Other signs indicate the elder Kims are not required the reverence of the past.

Herald Business reported Kim Jong Un has ceased wearing the loyalty badge featuring his father and biological grandfather since June.

[END REPORT]

August 13, 2014

NK leader's image makeover effort in full swing
By Lee Chi-dong
Yonhap News Agency (South Korea)

SEOUL, Aug, 13 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un seems to be doing everything he can to project an image of an "amiable and modern" leader.

Taking a break from its typical criticism of South Korea and the U.S., the North's main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, reported on a conversation between Kim and a five-year-old boy named Ri Myong-bok. Ri is an orphan at a care center for children in a remote province.

Meeting Ri at a Pyongyang hospital in May, Kim asked the boy about what he was doing, according to the newspaper's story on Wednesday.

Ri said he was just watching television, to which Kim reportedly asked what.

"I saw you Dear Leader," Ri was reported to have answered. Kim unexpectedly quipped, "It must have been no fun."

It is unusual for North Korea's dictator to make such a joke to a member of the public, and almost unthinkable for the communist nation's propaganda machine to report it.

Viewing a crowd chanting his name along with an abducted South Korean movie director, Sin Sang-ok, the late leader Kim Jong-il was once quoted as saying, "It's all fake. The people don't like me."

But the remarks have never been reported by the North's media.

North Korea watchers say Kim Jong-un appears to be modeling himself after his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, not his father who was called a "reclusive leader" by the outside world.

Kim Jong-un, who was educated in Switzerland, has apparently endeavored to improve his image and that of his nuclear-armed nation through a number of unusual moves, including a stage show featuring Disney characters and a meeting with ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman.

The North's media have also released a series of images showing Kim with a beaming smile and even wearing sunglasses or a straw hat.

He has often made tours of amusement parks, children's centers and other public facilities, sometimes accompanied by his wife, who is considered "fashionable" by North Korean standards.

Experts here say Kim is deeply concerned about his popularity and is making efforts to reach out to the public.

Kim's leadership style is closer to that of his grandfather than his father in that he is seeking to win the hearts and minds of the people by seeming friendly to them, while being tough on his aides, said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University's Institute for Peace.

[END REPORT]

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