North Korea in a fluster about Kim Jong-un?

Monday 20th October, 2014

On October 19, Korean Central TV (KCTV, central state broadcaster) released footage of Kim Jong-un greeting medalists from the Incheon Asian Games, in a move confirming his continued presence.

But this latest coverage of Kim Jong-un’s public activities lays bare a haphazard implementation of procedures. In North Korea, protocol requires for cadres to stand tense while facing the direction of the “Supreme Dignity” and then salute respectfully as he passes by. Yet the still below features two generals standing in a perfunctory manner in the presence of Kim Jong-un.

One of the generals is not even looking towards Kim as he has his hand resting on his head. Just as odd as the general’s behaviour is the fact that North Korea’s state media are releasing images that do not meet its rigorous vetting standards.


A general looks the other way as he salutes Kim Jong-un.
Photo credit: KCTV (October 19, 2014)

The KCTV footage has the potential to mislead viewers into thinking that a general considers himself above observing due protocol and respect with regards to the Supreme Leader. This is a level of suggestive contravention against the Supreme Leader’s cultification which, if it had slipped through the vetting process during Kim Jong-il’s time, would have had to lead to the immediate removal from posts of those responsible at KCTV and the Propaganda and Agitation Department, as well as the general in question.

In a shot depicting the Supreme Leader, every detail of focus, including other people’s physical conduct, gaze, and the angle from which the camera crew captures the scene, must be directed towards the Supreme Leader. The Institute for Party Records must select those images best focused on the Supreme Leader before transferring them to the Propaganda and Agitation Department.

Even those on the bottommost rung of this vetting process at the Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, Korea Central News Agency (KCNA, DPRK news wire for outside audience) or KCTV, for the sake of their own safety if nothing else, must process Supreme Leader related media in strict observation of principles that prioritize the Supreme Leader’s “supremacy”. How rushed was this process for publicizing Kim Jong-un’s presence that so many procedures of vetting were bypassed and institutional regulations for upholding mutual safety infringed?

From top to bottom rungs, many implicated in this propaganda release process – visible on the surface as well as behind the scenes – acted in fatal contravention of protocol and procedures that are brutally enforced. Perhaps the North Korean state is in a fluster, responding in haste to outside speculations regarding Kim Jong-un and letting slip so much in one mere frame. Or perhaps things are different at the top.

By Jang Jin-sung.
Read in Korean.
Translated by Haeryun Kang. Edited by Shirley Lee.
Featured images: KCTV (March 11, 2014 and October 19, 2014) 

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