Daily NK has confirmed that the surprise visit of three senior North
Korean officials to the closing ceremony of the Asian Games in Incheon
on Saturday formed part of a domestic propaganda strategy to highlight the
greatness of leader Kim Jong Eun and unity of the country’s dictatorial system.
A source from North Hamgyong Province reported on the 6th, “On the
afternoon of the 4th they held this urgent lecture in factories and People’s Units. The title of the lecture was, ‘The faith and consideration of Marshal Kim Jong Eun for the athletes and workers.’”
“Senior Party and military cadres were dispatched all the way to the scene
for our athletes, who, without exception, honored the Fatherland with their indomitable
fighting spirit,” the lecturer declared. “With his great love and consideration, Marshal Kim Jong Eun personally organized the dispatch of
[Hwang Pyong So, Choe Ryong Hae, and Kim Yang Geon] and even provided them
with a special plane.”
Looking back upon the Asian Games in light of the Saturday lecture, the
source concluded: “From the dispatch of the team of athletes right through to
the very end of the competition; the purpose was domestic propaganda.”
In the source’s analysis, Saturday’s extraordinary events, wherein three of the best known individuals in the North Korean regime traveled south
to Incheon on a plane bearing the livery not of Air Koryo, the North Korean state
flag carrier, but of the North Korean state itself, was aimed squarely at
the domestic audience. This runs counter to one explanation commonly offered both in South Korea and internationally, which is that the visit shows Pyongyang’s
desire to improve relations with Seoul.
News that the North Korean delegation apparently declined to meet with
President Park Geun Hye, even though the office of the South Korean leader was
preparing for a meeting, provides contextual support for the explanation provided
by the source inside North Korea. It is noticeable that the North Korean side also did not arrive bearing a concrete message on improving relations with the
North Korea’s very successful showing at the Asian Games, where the country
finished 7th with a total of 36 medals, 11 of them gold, was widely publicized
domestically. News of successes appeared daily, not only in publications such
as Rodong Sinmun and on state television, but also in reports carried by mobile broadcast vehicles and on the “3rd Broadcast,” a nationwide hard-wired broadcast network that often carries the
most strident regime propaganda.
“All the good results accomplished at these [Asian Games] were introduced
specifically as the achievements of Kim Jong Eun,” the source added.
Pyongyang’s embrace of the 17th Asian Games is in keeping with Kim
Jong Eun-era propaganda tropes, within which sport has been a prominent feature.
Specifically, much of the narrative centers on North Korea turning into a
sporting powerhouse under Kim’s wise leadership. It is alleged that Kim even took time out to
watch the men’s and women’s football finals during the Games. The women’s team
won gold, while the men’s team lost out in a close match
with the South.