Gathering Around a New General

Rodong Shinmun, the publication of the Chosun Workers’ Party, has presented a revision of an old revolutionary song, which now appears to praise successor Kim Jong Eun.

The song, “Chosun Youth March,” was introduced on the front page of the February 27th edition. The song comprises three verses, with each verse containing the lyric, “Let’s gather around General Kim.”

The first verse says, “Let’s take splendid steps to gather around General Kim,” the second proclaims, “Let’s hold the red flag high and gather around General Kim,” while the last concludes, “Friends, let’s join shoulders and gather around General Kim.”

According to North Korean defectors, this song is actually a revision of “Democratic Youth March,” a song composed after the foundation of the North Korean Democratic Youth League on January 17th, 1946. It was allegedly sung by middle school students on their way to school or by university youth organizations on national holidays.

By the 1980s, the corresponding line in the original song’s first verse was “Let’s splendidly sing the song of construction and gather around the Suryeong,” the second was “Let’s gather around our Party,” and the third, “Let’s construct the fatherland.”

At first glance, it is possible to imagine that “General Kim” refers to Kim Jong Il, since he is known in North Korea as “the General,” however, the lyrics of the song do not refer to “the.” Therefore, “General Kim” is unlikely to refer to Kim Jong Il, and much more likely to mean Kim Jong Eun. Some analysts see this as suggesting that the “Kim Jong Eun system” is starting in earnest, since the young successor has now progressed from being known as the “Youth Captain” to “Captain Kim” and now “General Kim.”

Previously, the only song about Kim Jong Eun known to the world was ‘Footsteps’. By introducing a new song, but in reality one already known and sung across several generations, the authorities presumably hope to both link Kim Jong Eun to a long tradition of leadership and encourage the idolization of the successor.

On February 28th, the day after publishing the lyrics, Rodong Shinmun also published a front-page editorial, entitled ‘The young should sing Chosun Youth March loudly as they display the glory of the military-first advance guard in today’s fierce battle’.

“‘General Kim’ appears to be referring to Kim Jong Eun,” one high-ranking defector agreed in conversation with The Daily NK. “North Korea has increased the level of idolization gradually, from ‘Youth Captain’ to ‘Captain Kim’ and since this song is also emphasizing youthfulness, it seems to be for the purpose of praising Kim Jong Eun.”