Kim Jong Un Remains Engrossed in Self-Praise While His People Starve to Death

An undated picture from North Korea shows beggars sifting through trash in desperation. Image provided by the writer.

SEOUL – Following Kim Jong Un’s declaration in 2022 that North Korea is an “irreversible” nuclear weapons state, North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament met on September 26-27, 2023, and formally enshrined North Korea’s nuclear status in its constitution.

Kim Jong Un was reappointed as the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, and called for the country to “push ahead with the work for exponentially boosting the production of nuclear weapons and diversifying the nuclear strike means” due to threats from the US and its allies.

The announcements were apparently part of the regime’s ongoing strategy to shift attention away from economic hardships exacerbated by the pandemic and emphasize North Korea’s supposed military prowess, alleged threats from hostile foreign powers, and bolstered relationship with Russia.

The North Korean Workers’ Party’s official newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, praised North Korea’s missile launches and other military developments “showcasing our historical journey of victory,” which reiterates the ongoing struggle and sacrifices that have been required to develop military capabilities to protect the people. 

This recycled propaganda narrative is unlikely to resonate with most North Koreans who have been suffering greatly since the pandemic began.

North Korean defector Kang Sang-wook, who arrived in South Korea in July 2022 and now studies at Sogang University in Seoul, stated in an interview with this writer that the dire situation in North Korea during the pandemic was the worst he had ever seen. 

According to his account, North Korea’s severe internal problems were exacerbated by Kim Jong Un’s “Zero COVID” border blockade, which caused a significant shortage of daily necessities in markets that the vast majority of North Koreans rely on.

Moreover, the regime has tightened control over market activities in various regions, leading to a surge in discontent among the population.

However, Kim Jong Un has continued to focus on strengthening his authoritarian regime using various means of control, including focusing on events, political gatherings, and more.

Responding to questions from this writer about North Korean media broadcasts related to Kim Jong Un’s recent purported achievements, Kang Sang-wook expressed deep concern, stating, “It is truly pitiful to see the lives of North Korean citizens starving to death while Kim Jong Un is entirely consumed by self-praise.”

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