Kim Jong Un has offered a glimpse of his emotional and apologetic image. Let’s see what does he mean when he says “I am sorry.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shed tears and issued a rare apology for his failure to guide his country properly amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a first for Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader apologised for his failures. Speaking at the 75th birth anniversary of his ruling party on October 10, Kim Jong Un was visibly emotional and thanked the citizens of the country for their sacrifices. He probably wanted to showcase his “man of the people” persona to tackle his country’s deepening crisis.

Kim Jong Un wiping away his tears at the 75th birth anniversary of his ruling Workers’ Party said, “Our people have placed trust, as high as the sky and as deep as the sea, in me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily. I am really sorry for that.”

Kim Jong Un was also seen highlighting the legacy of the “great work” done by his ancestors. In his emotive speech, Kim paid tribute to the troops of the country for their response to preventing disasters and reflected on the challenging times that people around the world are experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also expressed his desire to improve relations with South Korea. 

It is being believed that the speech was clearly and carefully designed to resonate with the domestic audience of North Korea, likely to glue Kim’s image as a competent, charismatic leader who apart from his aggressive behaviour also has a human side to him. The North Korean leader broke into wide smiles when huge new ballistic missiles were displayed in the parade. While on the other, he blamed North Korea’s continuing economic hardships on international sanctions, the coronavirus crisis, and a series of damaging typhoons and floods.

Since succeeding his father in 2011, Kim Jong Un has made economic progress a cornerstone of his agenda. He also met with United States President Donald Trump, forming an unprecedented personal relationship that included flowery letters. But his ambitious plans for international trade, construction projects, and other economic measures have been blocked in the face of sanctions imposed over his nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

Was it an ‘actor at work’ or ‘genuine emotions’?

Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul, said despite his conciliatory comments towards South Korea, his main message on Saturday was aimed at the United States.

“By showing a new ICBM, the North suggested they can test it any time if things don’t go well after the election. Inter-Korean ties don’t count to them,” Shin said. He further added, “It was appalling to see him shed crocodile tears after shooting our citizen to death.”

The South Korean government said Kim’s speech would foster better ties but it urged North Korea to stick to agreements preventing armed clashes and accept a request for a joint investigation into the shooting of the fisheries official.

While, if we look from a different perspective then, the sentiment is in keeping with North Korean orthodoxy as Pyongyang consistently portrays the Kim family who has led it for more than 70 years as heroes who devote their lives to the service of its people. But observers say that under Kim, North Korea has taken some small steps away from the personality cult of the past.

Many analysts also believe that the latest event of happenings and Kim Jong Un’s speech was “about the people” and “carefully calibrated to come across as genuine and relatable.” It is being believed that North Korea is changing its propaganda strategy of conveying its message in a more entertaining and relatable manner.

South Korea’s reaction:

Post the parade, South Korea on Sunday expressed their concerns and once again urged North Korea to abide by its previous disarmament pledges. South Korean Defence Ministry soon released a statement and said, “North Korea unveiled weapons including what was suspected to be a new long-range ballistic missile.” In the statement released South Korea reminded North Korea to stick to its 2018 inter-Korean deals aimed at lowering animosities.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry in a separate statement urged its neighbour to return to talks aimed at achieving denuclearization and peace in the Korean peninsula.