Yesterday, the North Korean state media published stinging criticism by Kim Jong Eun of the management of Mangyongdae Funfair in Pyongyang, a move that stands out in the history of public reporting of ‘onsite guidance’ visits.
This is because normally the North Korean state media’s reports of onsite guidance visits focus on the satisfaction of the leader at the standards attained and little more.
However, this time an unimpressed Kim was reported as telling amusement park management cadres, “That the funfair could be this pathetic was unimaginable. The phrase ‘it is always darkest directly beneath the candle’ means exactly this.”
Despite the surprise Kim’s comments have engendered, this is not the first time a North Korean leader has said such things. According to a high level source in the defector community, Kim Jong Il also used to issue harsh criticisms during his onsite guidance visits. Indeed, a majority of the comments left by Kim on an average visit to a site in the economic sector were reportedly critical of what he was seeing.
However, the difference is that Kim Jong Il’s critical comments were only broadcast publicly via the fixed cable ‘Third Broadcast’ system, which only the North Korean people are exposed to. TV and state radio broadcasters, those parts of the North Korean media more accessible to outsiders, would omit the negative sections.
Therefore, it seems probable that the berating comments were made public so as to encourage cadres to work harder while also bringing them to heel. Perhaps more importantly, however, they also serve to show the endless concern of the new leader for the people, while implicitly passing responsibility for failings onto cadres and away from the supreme leader himself.