News / Asia

North Korean Film Promotes Young Leader’s Military Experience

Kim Jong Un holds an assault rifle, equipped with a sniper's scope, in a scene from a program broadcast Sunday on North Korean television.
Kim Jong Un holds an assault rifle, equipped with a sniper's scope, in a scene from a program broadcast Sunday on North Korean television.

North Korea's media made no overt reference to its new leader's apparent birthday, Sunday, in a country where the birthdays of his deceased father and grandfather are celebrated as national holidays.  But the day was marked with the broadcast of a television documentary highlighting Kim Jong Un's experiences guiding the country's military.

Sunday, millions of North Koreans viewed a 50 minute television program showing Kim Jong Un greeting enthusiastic soldiers, driving a military tank, handling weapons, sitting in the cockpit of a military aircraft and riding a horse.

Kim Jong Un shown in documentary in the hatch of a KPA tank.
Kim Jong Un shown in documentary in the hatch of a KPA tank.

In one scene, the narrator says the soldiers are moved by their supreme leader's heartfelt patriotism.  He is reported to have told the soldiers his life-long mission is to vigorously lead the struggle to ensure the army's utmost readiness for combat.

There were also numerous clips of Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be in his late 20's and educated in Switzerland, smiling while greeting military units. That contrasts the image of his father, Kim Jong Il, who over the decades, frequently displayed a serious expression during his guided inspection tours.

Analyst Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group in Seoul says it is likely no coincidence Kim Jong Un's public profile more closely resembles his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. North Korea's founder, who died in 1994, led his country before it experienced severe economic decline and widespread hunger.

"I think many North Korean people are dissatisfied with the situation. There's a lot of hardship in that society. I think a lot of people are looking to him [Kim Jong Un] as a focal point to restore some of the successes of the DPRK [North Korea], Pinkston said. "So, maybe, he wants to present an image that is positive and that will encourage people to rally around him and get back to positive productivity, et cetera."

Another scene, apparently shot in 2009 but aired for the first time Sunday, shows Kim Jong Un interacting with officials at the control center for a rocket launch. The narrator quotes Kim as saying he would go to war if the enemies of North Korea shot down the rocket.

North Korea had claimed it put a satellite into orbit on April Fifth, 2009. But officials in Seoul and Washington, at the time, said that did not happen and the launch was really a test of a long-range missile.

Analyst Pinkston says the newly revealed presence of Kim at the 2009 launch and his war threat is meant to inform North Koreans that he will be strong against military adversaries. He says it also warns South Korea and the international community that the new leader will not hesitate to respond to any perceived threats.

"It also could be a signal about future missile launches that, I think, would be configured as an attempted satellite launch and sending the signal, if in fact, there's any attempted intercept that North Korea will be prepared to respond militarily," Pinkston stated.

In addition to its ballistic missile development North Korea has tested two atomic devices.

North Korea says Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack last month.

Since then his third son, Kim Jong Un, has quickly been built up as the father's successor and the "supreme leader" of the people, the party and the military.

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