Pyongyang residents join chorus of criticism toward Kim Jong Un

Pyongyangites drinking Taedonggang Beer
Pyongyangites drinking Taedonggang Beer. Image: DPRK Today

Daily NK has caught a glimpse of how popular feeling toward the state among ordinary North Koreans appears to be changing for the worse. Residents are criticizing the failure of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic efforts to reduce the burden of international sanctions on the country, particularly as denuclearization talks have faltered and the country’s economic troubles have not improved.

“Until last year, many people said that Kim Jong Un was doing better than his father in terms of international diplomacy. But the dramatic difficulties the economy is facing this year and the continuing sanctions are leading more and more people to criticize the regime,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK.

“There’s a lot of people complaining about the absence of rations they had been expecting. Decorated soldiers, government officials and other groups who had long received them just aren’t getting them any more.”

Daily NK previously reported that some workers at some military factories, who had never previously had their rations cut off, are no longer receiving rations and have ceased working.

Residents of Pyongyang are even criticizing Kim’s ruling style. “People are saying that Kim Jong Un is ruling the country even more cruelly than his father,” said the source. “They say that he just gets rid of anyone he doesn’t like.”

Another Pyongyang-based source told Daily NK that North Koreans have not looked kindly on Kim’s lack of progress in dialogue with the US. Even those who watched the US-North Korean summit in Panmunjom on TV on June 30 are criticizing the talks between the two countries.

“There were several US-North Korea talks held over the past year, but there’s been no progress on anything,” said the source. “People are saying that even if the leader [Kim Jong Un] meets with foreign leaders 10 or 20 times, nothing will change and people’s lives will continue to be tough.”

Residents in Pyongyang have also expressed critical views toward the recent missile tests conducted by North Korea’s military. “The regime says that they’ve succeeded in testing new weapons, but Pyongyang residents don’t care about that. They care about their own economic conditions,” he said.

“Pyongyang residents are increasingly critical toward the regime, while state officials are just emphasizing that everyone should ‘work things out by themselves’ during inminban meetings and lectures,” the source continued, criticizing the failure of the government to face reality.

“People don’t care whether the leader has summits with foreign leaders or not. They just care about eating enough and not being caught in crackdowns.”

“That such criticisms are coming from Kim Jong Un’s base of support in Pyongyang shows that even the most loyal North Koreans are turning against the regime,” a former high-level North Korean official told Daily NK. “If Kim understands the discontent among the people, he may end up demanding the reduction or lifting of sanctions during denuclearization negotiations with the US.”

According to the initial Pyongyang-based source, there are rumors among high-level officials in North Korea that Kim may visit the US this fall.

“Cadres are saying that Kim Jong Un will take the leap and visit America for the betterment of his people,” he said. “Of course, the Central Party may just be spreading the rumor to calm people’s discontent with the way things are going.”

Jang Seul Gi is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to