North Korea emphasizes Kim Jong Un’s key role in inter-Korean family reunions and signals potential for further reunions in the future

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) and South Korean President Moon Jae In announcing the Panmunjom Declaration during the Inter-Korean Summit April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. Image: South Korean Joint Press Corps

Sources in the country report that the North Korean authorities are domestically portraying the inter-Korean agreement to hold family reunions as solely the achievement of leader Kim Jong Un.

The authorities are also blaming the Park Geun Hye administration for the failure of the two Koreas to hold such reunions for the past two years, possibly implying that further reunions could be held after the planned one in August.

“The North Korean authorities are ramping up their promotion of Kim Jong Un’s achievements through inminban [local neighborhood watch-like organizations] lectures,” said a South Hamgyong Province-based source on July 5.

“They have emphasized that point that ‘the Dear Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is a great leader who has opened the path for divided families to meet and the door to national reconciliation.”

The North Korean authorities have historically avoided mentioning family reunions to the domestic audience in advance of such events. Concern over so-called “fantasies about South Korea” has led the North Korean authorities to conduct background investigations of potential reunion participants in secret.

But recent developments are signaling changes to this approach. Family reunions have already been mentioned in the Panmunjom Declaration signed by the leaders of the two Koreas. This may have induced the North Korean authorities to emphasize Kim Jong Un’s important role in the holding of the reunions rather than attempting to conceal all plans for the reunions outright.

“The lecturer emphasized that Kim Jong Un made the generous decision to meet with the South Korean president in Panmunjom to open the door to national reconciliation, and that he made the bold decision to agree to reunions between divided families,” a source in North Hamgyong Province, who confirmed that similar lectures took place in that region.

She added that the lecturer claimed that more reunions would be held even after the one planned in August.

There was no mention of South Korean President Moon Jae In during the lectures, which were rife with criticisms of the previous South Korean president.

North Korea has traditionally emphasized South Korea as the sole party to blame for worsening inter-Korean relations, similar to its constant claims that US imperialists are plotting to overthrow the country’s government.

“The lecturer blamed the delay of the divided family reunions, and the closing of the Kumgangsan tourist site and Kaesong Industrial Complex on the conservative parties and traitors in South Korea,” the North Hamgyong Province-based source said.

“The lecturer ended his speech cryptically by saying that, ‘All things will end as they should,’ but many North Koreans have high expectations that North-South Korea relations will improve. These high expectations show how much the North Korean people are hoping for unification.”