News & Politics

What's the Angle? Kim Jong-un Cries as He Apologizes to N. Koreans for Poor Living Standards

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

In an unprecedented emotional speech to the North Korean people, Kim Jong-un wept and apologized for failing to raise the nation’s standard of living.

Just minutes before, Kim was seen grinning like a schoolboy in his first visit to a strip club as he reviewed a massive military parade that featured huge new ICBMs.

Kim has been full of surprises recently, and this appears to be another calculated move to buttress his “man of the people” cred. But that’s not going to put food in people’s bellies after a summer of crop failures and natural disasters that have made feeding his people a grave challenge.


“Our people have placed trust, as high as sky and as deep as sea, on me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily,” Kim said, at one point appearing to choke up. “I am really sorry for that.”

Kim said the country’s success in preventing a coronavirus outbreak and overcoming other challenges was a “great victory achieved” by the citizens.

“Our people have always been grateful to our Party, but it is none other than themselves who surely deserve a bow of gratitude,” he said.

Hardly the usual propaganda harangue about party and country. But you have to wonder how much of Kim’s emotional jag was for international eyes. He may be preparing some kind of major outreach to dramatically increase food aid and needed to be seen as being “human.”

“Kim has been more personally present and visible at disaster reconstruction sites and the like, and he’s prioritised a lot of the symbolic construction projects designed to show economic progress,” he said.

But despite some early moves towards embracing markets, Kim is not an out-an-out reformer and his policy prescriptions have tended to draw on the North Korea playbook honed by his father and grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung, Silberstein said.

That “playbook” is all about “Juche.”