Kim’s Labor Day in the Spotlight

Kim Jong Eun’s decision to visit to the Ministry of People’s Security on yesterday’s Labor Day holiday has become a source of international interest.

The visit was in considerable contrast to previous years. Last year, for example, Kim visited a glass factory in North Pyongan Province to commemorate the May 1st holiday, which is intended to celebrate the labor of working persons. In 2010, Kim Jong Il marked the day with a concert by bands including Eunhasu Orchestra, and in 2009 he watched the film ‘Flower Girl’ with workers in the metals industry.

The visit is also incongruous because the Kim Jong Eun regime has thus far calibrated its propaganda output to convey an image of Kim as a man of the people in the style of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. Visiting an ordinary industrial enterprise or attending cultural events would have better served such an image, rather than one of North Korea’s two public security forces, both of which are widely disliked.

Reporting on Kim’s Labor Day activities in 2012, KCNA noted that the factory workers, “with the glory of having comrade Kim Jong Eun there in their workplace, were consumed by endless emotion and passion.”

Multiple explanations for Kim’s choice are possible, but one is that the visit is a reflection of deteriorating public opinion in North Korea, especially after a winter of military tension and regular public air raid exercises, etc. Labor Day would not otherwise seem to be a time for ordering public security agents to wipe out hostile elements in society, as Kim did during yesterday’s visit.

Of course, Kim also spent part of the holiday watching a sports match in Pyongyang, but it was significant that photos and news of the Ministry of Public Security visit were what covered the first three pages of the May 2nd Rodong Shinmun, the publication of the Chosun Workers’ Party.

Commenting on the choice, Professor Kim Yeon Soo of Korea National Defense University told Daily NK today, “He visited the Ministry of People’s Security to elevate his power to control those elements that could crop up with complaints against the regime.”

Oh Gyung Seob of the Sejong Institute agreed, declaring, “Kim Jong Eun visiting the Ministry of the People’s Security on Labor Day tells us that they are weak domestically: that the regime is insecure and complaints from the people are increasing.”