It’s not unusual for Korea Central Television (KCTV) to praise and idolize North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, but some interesting changes have been taking place in recent months. Although usually reserved for broadcasting the day’s main news, the 8 PM time slot is now featuring a new program celebrating Kim Jong Un’s leadership achievements through the many guided field trips he took since coming to power.
The program was first aired on Jan. 10, two days after Kim Jong Un’s birthday (at least we think its his birthday). This first episode was about Kim Jong Un’s December 2016 visit to a power plant in Wonsan. The program stressed the praise he received for the “immortal achievements of his leadership” from the workers. The next day’s episode showed Kim’s Jan. 2018 visit to the State Academy of Sciences and, again, highlighted researchers’ praise for their leader’s “immortal achievements.”
Similar broadcasts followed: Kim’s Oct. 2013 visit to the Pyongyang Gymnasium was aired on Jan. 12 and his June 2017 visit to the Pyongyang Dental Hygiene Products Factory was aired the next day, again celebrating his achievements.
The Jan. 14 program was aired under the title “Great Leadership, Immortal Achievements.” That broadcast highlighted Kim’s visit to Pyongyang’s Sci-Tech Complex while the next day’s episode looked at Kim’s visit to the Youth Movement Museum.
It is important to keep in mind that the titles and visits chosen for each episode are not random; everything has been thought through with a bigger plan in mind. South Korea also airs similar programs on news channels with the aim of changing behaviors or promoting a higher ideal, such as responsible drinking of alcohol and driving safely. Given that this new program is airing nearly every day in the top news slot, it’s difficult to imagine that the Kim regime doesn’t have ulterior motives or a larger plan to go with it.
So why are these programs being broadcast now and with such regularity? The reason can likely be found by looking at peculiarities associated with this particular year. If so, what does 2020 mean for Kim Jong Un? Well, quite a lot actually: 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s first appearance in public.
Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance on Sept. 28, 2010, meaning that this September will mark the 10th anniversary of his entry onto the public stage. In North Korea, it is customary to hold large celebrations for five and ten year anniversaries of important events – undoubtedly, the 10-year anniversary of Kim’s first public appearance will not go unnoticed. The programs that have celebrated Kim’s leadership achievements since January could be related to this anniversary.
This is not the only event set to be celebrated by the regime this year. Oct. 10, 2020, will mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). This date, of course, has already been receiving attention for some time.
SEPT. 28 – OCT. 10: A TURNING POINT FOR THE KOREAN PENINSULA?
With this in mind, the period stretching from Sept. 28 to Oct. 10 is an important one for the regime. It will be a time to highlight Kim Jong Un’s achievements over the past ten years and celebrate his leadership.
North Korea has declared a “frontal breakthrough” campaign that aims to sidestep international and US sanctions through an emphasis on self-reliance. Whether this be through its many large-scale construction projects or by achieving vaguely stipulated production goals, such achievements will likely be heavily promoted by state media. However, large-scale celebrations will not be the only thing North Korea is planning.
One of Kim Jong Un’s key messages has been stressing the need for North Korea to have a nuclear deterrent to counter any outside threats. In line with this, it remains to be seen whether Kim’s “new strategic weapon” will be revealed over the course of these celebrations. Whether or not a new weapon is revealed will largely depend on international dynamics as well as the country’s own domestic weapons development program. One thing is clear, however: a turning point for the Korean Peninsula this year will likely occur in the period between Sept. 28 and Oct. 10.
*Translated by Gabriela Bernal
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Check out Ahn Jong Sik’s past column here.