Efforts ramp up to promote Kim Jong Un personality cult

Excerpt of document obtained by Daily NK (material printed/presented in late July 2018). Image: Daily NK

The North Korean regime has been focusing on shoring up the growing personality cult around leader Kim Jong Un. Seeking to place him on the same pedestal as Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Un and emphasizing his “greatness,”  the authorities are bolstering his image as a leader who loves his people and enacts the legacies of his predecessors.

Daily NK recently obtained a propaganda and agitation document that has surfaced in the country. The document, referred to as the “Notebook of an Agitation Official,” documents evidence that the regime is trying to build domestic solidarity by raising loyalty toward Kim. The notebook, which was distributed by the regime in July, promotes the “greatness” of Kim and places him behind his grandfather Kim Il Sung and father Kim Jong Il but in front of his grandmother Kim Jong Suk, while also giving him the status of the only leader who can continue the legacies of North Korea’s past leaders.

The regime has been using propaganda and agitation officials in all sectors of the government to promote Kim’s authority and justify the Suryong (Supreme Leader)-led regime. Ultimately, these political propaganda efforts are being used to increase solidarity toward the regime by encouraging the people to be loyal to Kim and be “ideologically armed.”

The notebook, around 90 pages long, begins with a section on “Documents [Showing] the Greatness of the Great Suryong Comrade Kim Il Sung” before moving to similar sections on Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Un is referred to as the “Dear Respected Supreme Leader” instead of just the “Great Kim Jong Un,” and at only nine pages, his section is shorter than those devoted to his father and grandfather. However, it is abundantly clear that the section is focused on promoting his own cult of personality.

The notebook presents a “case study” of Kim praising the efforts of the North Korean military on-site as they conducted recovery efforts in Rason, North Hamgyong Province, after the area was hit by floods in September 2015. In an effort to promote his image as a “man of the people,” the notebook quotes Kim as saying, “The most precious asset we have is the trust of the people. We must pay back their trust with an unheeding mentality to serve them and with the perspective that their trust is all we need.”

The notebook also states that “[t]he Dear Respected Leader’s fervent love and endless devotion to the people has unleashed the miracle-like drive in creativity behind the construction of apartments and their environs by military construction companies in a short time and at the highest standards set by the Party, along with the establishment of the happy paradise in Rason.”

The booklet also mentions Kim’s on-the-spot visit and his praise of the success of the military in completing its recovery efforts in under a month and alleges that he waited one and a half-hours to take a commemorative photo with them.

“With a total devotion to the love of the country and its people, the Dear  Respected Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un’s unique leadership has made it possible for miracles to occur throughout the land and cries of ‘Mansae’ (long live/hurray!) for the Party and for socialism shakes the heavens and earth,” the document reads.

Kim, however, did not visit the site of the recovery efforts when North Hamgyong Province was again hit by floods in 2016, leading to hundreds of deaths and the destruction of countless houses and pieces of infrastructure. He simply ordered a single hydraulic excavator to be sent to Chongjin and sent gifts to some of the flood victims. Later, Chae Ryong Hae visited the flood sites, but locals were reportedly unhappy about the fact that Chae only made some critical comments about recovery efforts before leaving.

The document, moreover, presents Kim’s visit to the Kosan Fruit General Market when the region was still suffering greatly from the floods as an example of his “love for the people.” The document suggests that readers should feel a deep sense of the leader’s love because he said that people will like being sent “apples harvested this year” to the managers of a farm that performed well.

The notebook also contains quotes emphasizing Kim’s leadership style, which takes into account the legacies of his forebears, including, “The proud success this farm has shown makes me think of the devotion and efforts of our Suryong (Kim Il Sung) and General (Kim Jong Il), who made the bright future of this farm possible,” and, “The leadership and achievements of our Great Suryongs and their strenuous efforts to ensure the people eat a lot of apples must be made known.”  

The document also emphasizes Kim’s “wise” quote, “There is no greater patriotic act than to cultivate the strength to build the motherland into a strong and prosperous country,” continuing that “[the] Dear Respected Supreme Leader Comrade’s wise sayings must be etched into our hearts and made to improve each of our own agricultural efforts so that this year, the 70th year since the founding of the Republic, will be known as one that witnessed an increase in grain production.”

On November 4-6, North Korea unveiled a large portrait of Kim Jong Un as events welcoming Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel to the country drew international attention from the press. This marked the first time such a portrait has been revealed to the public.

*This article was amended on November 12 to change the translation of Kim Jong Un’s title in English.