Analysts have slammed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s emotional speech at a military parade last week as “strategic crocodile tears”.
At a speech during celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party, Kim thanked troops for their sacrifices and apologised to citizens for failing to improve their lives.
In video footage edited and released by the state television station, Kim appeared tearful and at one point seemed to choke up.
Kim said he was grateful that not a single North Korean had been infected with Covid-19, a claim that US and South Korean officials have previously cast doubt on.
The impact of anti-coronavirus measures, international sanctions and several typhoons combined to prevent the government from following through on promises to improve citizens' lives, Kim said.
"My efforts and sincerity have not been sufficient enough to rid our people of the difficulties in their life," he said.
"Our people, however, have always believed and absolutely trusted me, and supported my choice and determination, whatever it is."
‘Shrewd, cunning and intelligent’
Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, told the New York Post Jong-un would never look vulnerable even if he was.
“The Kims are very shrewd, very cunning and very intelligent,” he said.
“Kim is hoping that emulating his grandfather will keep the people on his side.”
North Koreans are starting to learn through smuggled thumb drives just how bad life could get, with 40 per cent of the population, or more than 10 million people, currently facing a food shortage, Mr Scarlatoiu said.
North Korea's economy, already severely restricted by international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, took a further hit as the country shut down nearly all border traffic in an effort to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.
Citizens are learning of the food shortage, which may have been exacerbated by severe northern summer floods and typhoons.
An independent expert told the UN in a report that “many families cannot afford two meals a day, some may be starving and some have become homeless".
“The majority of the population living in the border regions and relying on commercial activities have lost their source of income and are struggling to fulfil their basic needs,” they said.
“People are reportedly selling their assets and furniture, taking loans, and going to the mountains to find medicinal herbs, forage for food and cultivate small patches of land to survive.”
David Maxwell, a North Korea specialist at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Post North Koreans “are going through tremendous hardship, and it could get much worse”.
“Their suffering, of course, is a direct result of Kim’s policies. All the money is spent on missiles and weaponry, nothing for the people,” he said.
Sean King, an Asian expert at Park Strategies, told The Post Jung-un and his grandfather “were chubby on purpose”.
“It gives them a softer, more parental look. They’ve always talked about the ‘warm bosom’ of the Dear Leader. Corpulence is seen as strategic. So are the crocodile tears and apologies,” he said.
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