Kim Jong Un samjiyon soldiers
North Korea's Rodong Sinmun reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Samjiyon on Oct. 16, 2019. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited construction sites in Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province, to review progress on the second phase of construction, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and other North Korean media outlets on Wednesday.

This was Kim Jong Un’s first visit to Samjiyon in six months. Kim visited the area earlier this year in April, after the breakdown of the US-North Korean summit in Hanoi.

According to KCNA, Kim listened to reports on the status of the second stage of construction. He reportedly spent a long time touring the many roads and neighborhoods of the region, and learned about how much progress had been made on the construction.

North Korean press also reported that Kim toured the construction sites for the People’s Hospital and Dental Clinic of Samjiyon County, as well as the Samjiyon Blueberry Wine Factory. He expressed satisfaction, saying, “The second stage of construction for enhancing Samjiyon looks to be wrapping up well, overall.” 

“Right now our nation is undergoing hardship due to the obstinate sanctions and crushing machinations of our enemies, and we have before us many trials and obstacles,” Kim was reported as saying. “This project for enhancing Samjiyon is a marvelous journey that clearly demonstrates once more our strength and regenerative ability, and also that when we believe in our own power and are strongly united, standing up with strength, there is nothing we cannot do.”

“We must not expect anyone’s help, nor listen to any temptations,” continued Kim, adding, “We must stay the course on the road of constant progress, based on our self-reliant wealth and prosperity, and continue to raise high our banner of strength and regenerative ability.” 

Kim also laid out the tasks for the completion of the second stage of construction and the third stage of construction, and asked once more that the construction in Samjiyon be completed by the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea (Oct. 10, 2020). 

Kim was accompanied on the on-the-spot visit by high-ranking officials from the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, including Cho Yong-won, Kim Yo-jong, Ri Jong-nam, Ryu Jin, Pak Song-chol, Hong Yong-song, and Hyon Song-wol. At the site, he was welcomed by Ryang Myong-chol, chair of the Samjiyon County Committee as well by the commander of the 216th Division.

KCNA also reported on Kim’s “march on military horseback” the same day, saying, “Comrade Kim Jong Un greeted the first snow on Mount Paekdu, personally riding up to the peak of Paekdu on a white horse.” 

KCNA described Kim’s visit to Mount Paektu as “A great event of great importance in our revolutionary history,” noting further that “The legendary spirit of Comrade Kim Jong Un, who does not give in to the slightest of concessions or compromise regardless of threat or temptation, and tenaciously leads our nation to the line of battle against the most powerful nations, and directs the flow of history along a path of justice and truth, shines on Mount Paektu.” 

Kim’s visit to Mount Paeku is meaningful in and of itself, according to some analysts. Kim has been known to visit Mount Paektu in the past before important political or diplomatic events. He visited the mountain before inter-Korean talks in December 2017 and in November 2014, on the third anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death. He also visited the mountain in February 2013, right before executing his uncle Jang Song Taek. 

Some experts call attention to the possibility that Kim might be preparing to announce some new decision in regards to US-North Korean denuclearization negotiations, which have shown no signs of progress. 

Other experts, however, suggest that Kim’s visit was focused on encouraging major national projects and to present Samjiyon as the fruit of North Korea’s strength and regenerative ability as well as a model for socialist construction of the economy.

“Chairman Kim Jong-un’s visit to Mount Paektu is his 19th activity in the political area this year, and the 22nd activity following the summit between North and South Korea and the US in Panmunjom,” South Korea’s Ministry of Unification Spokesman Lee Sang-min said Wednesday. “Moving forward, we will closely watch Chairman Kim’s visits and the situation in North Korea.”

*Translated by Violet Kim

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