Tag Archives: JongUn

Kim Jong-un absent from North Korea election announcement

Kim Jong-un absent from North Korea election announcementKim Jong-un was not on the list of 687 candidates elected to the North Korean parliament in Sunday’s election, state media announced on Tuesday, although his sister was voted into the rubber-stamp parliament. No reason has been given for Mr Kim’s absence from the ballot, five years after he was elected in the previous vote as head of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Every candidate who did run in the election was returned with 100 percent of the vote in their constituencies, including Kim Yo-jung, Mr Kim’s younger sister, who previously worked in the government’s propaganda division but has more recently taken on the management of his day-to-day schedule. “North Korean elections have no meaning anyway, but this is designed to show that Kim feels himself to be above those who were elected”, said Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor who specialises in North Korea’s leadership at Tokyo’s Waseda University. “He is telling the nation that he is not on the same level as the rest of the party and it is effectively beneath him to go through the election process”, he added. “This will not affect his control on the party or the nation, but it is meant to show that he’s a better leader than his own father and Kim Il-sung, his grandfather and the founder of North Korea”. Rah Jong-yil, a former head of South Korean intelligence charged with monitoring the North, echoed that assessment. “Kim apparently does not consider it necessary for himself to be elected, but he is the head of state so he will still be in parliament and make all the decisions, which means the entire election is a joke. “It’s all for the facade of legitimacy and this will change nothing in the way the country is run or the leadership’s policies”. Fully 99.99 percent of all eligible voters had exercised their democratic right to select their leaders, KCNA reported, with citizens serving at sea excused the obligation to vote. The results of the election were never in any doubt – each ballot paper only has one name and anyone who wants to vote against the approved candidate has to enter a special booth and put a cross through the name. But defectors say that Mr Kim’s standing has been damaged by his failure to win concessions on sanctions on the regime at the recent Hanoi summit with President Donald Trump.  “Mr Kim expected a lot from this summit”, said  Lee Ae-ran, who fled North Korea with her family in 1997 but retains contacts there as president of The Centre for Liberty and Reunification.  “It was more than simply relief from the sanctions; he believed a victory in Hanoi would earn him more support from the people, enabling him to tighten his control over the nation even more”.  And while discontent was never going to be reflected in Sunday’s election, Mrs Lee says it is not far beneath the surface.  “The sanctions are causing the economic devastation to spread in the North and people are struggling to overcome the terrible shortage of food”, she told The Telegraph. “I believe the grudges they hold towards Kim could worsen and possibly even explode.  “Any rupture could be lethal to Kim Jong-un and his regime”, she added.  Voters queue to cast their ballots at the '3.26 Pyongyang Cable Factory' during voting for the Supreme People's Assembly elections, in Pyongyang Credit:  ED JONES/AFP Mrs Lee said the North Korean dictator will use the election to “replace the ‘older generation’, who were loyal to his father, with his own group of flatterers”, but she believes the resentment will inevitably deepen.  “If the people in the North can continue to build stronger connections with the outside world and complaints against the party and the leadership continue to grow, then the people will realise that they can escape from the abuse that they are presently suffering at the hands of their own leaders”, she said. Jiro Ishimaru, chief editor of AsiaPress, said his network of “citizen reporters” in North Korea is saying that there is “extreme disappointment” at the failure of the Hanoi summit, which the regime had indicated would be a victory for Mr Kim that would see sanctions quickly lifted.  There is a growing sense that Mr Kim “is an incompetent person”, he added.



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Otto Warmbier: Parents of man tortured in North Korea condemn Trump's 'lavish praise' for Kim Jong-un

Otto Warmbier: Parents of man tortured in North Korea condemn Trump's 'lavish praise' for Kim Jong-unThe parents of Otto Warmbier have rebuked Donald Trump for saying he did not think Kim Jong-un was involved in the mistreatment of the US student who died after being detained in North Korea – an admonishment the president later responded to by saying his remarks had been minsinterpreted. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Mr Trump has taken credit for freeing American prisoners abroad and used Mr Warmbier’s death as a rallying cry against the North’s human rights abuses before softening his rhetoric in advance of talks with Mr Kim.



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Donald Trump meets Kim Jong-un at Vietnam summit and praises North Korea's 'unlimited' potential

Donald Trump meets Kim Jong-un at Vietnam summit and praises North Korea's 'unlimited' potentialDonald Trump praised Kim Jong-un as a “great leader” on Wednesday and talked up North Korea’s “unlimited” economic potential as the pair begun their two-day summit in Vietnam.  The US and North Korean leaders shared a 10-second handshake, warm words and a laugh while posing for the camera as they met for only the second time in Hanoi, the Vietnam capital.  They talked alone at first, save only for interpreters, before enjoying a wider dinner with key members of their administrations at a luxury colonial-era hotel in the city.  Mr Trump, who earlier in the day had tweeted about “my friend Kim”, talked up North Korea’s economic prospects – the carrot with which he hopes to convince Kim to give up his nuclear weapons. “I think that your country has tremendous economic potential – unbelievable, unlimited," the US president told Kim at the beginning of their one-on-one chat.  "I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country – a great leader – and I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen."   Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un at dinner at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi Credit: Broadcast via AP   Kim said that North Korea had been “misunderstood” and viewed with “distrust” in the past but praised the steps Washington and Pyongyang have made to ease tensions.  “There have been efforts, whether out of hostility or not, to block the path that we intend to take," Kim said, before adding that those challenges had been “overcome”.  He said of the Vietnam summit: "I am confident that we can achieve great results that everyone welcomes." The civility of the exchanges underscored the remarkable thawing in relations between Mr Trump, 72, and Kim, 35, over the last 18 months.  Mr Trump’s first year in office was marked with threats of “fire and fury” and mockery of Kim as “Little Rocket Man” but from early 2018 tensions eased, culminating in a historic summit in Singapore last June.  There were no policy breakthroughs announced on Wednesday evening, with more substantial talks about implementing Kim’s loose pledge to denuclearise at the Singapore summit due to take place on Thursday.    A television screen shows a news broadcast of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un meeting with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi, at a railway station in Seoul Credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images   Instead the leaders put on a display of mutual respect when they met at the Metropole, a luxury French colonial-era hotel that includes actor Charlie Chaplin and author Graham Greene among its famous past guests.  Striding out towards each other shortly before 7pm local time, Mr Trump and Kim shook hands against a backdrop of a dozen interwoven US and North Korean flags.  Mr Trump patted Kim on his back before they turned to pose for the cameras, with the pair sharing a laugh before heading off to their negotiations.  The US president was asked by one reporter whether the summit would result in a political declaration to end the Korean War. "We'll see,” he responded. A one-on-one chat was followed by dinner with an extended ground of aides around a small round table covered by a white tablecloth.    Kim Jong-un receives a bouquet of flowers as he arrives at the Melia hotel in Hanoi Credit: KCNA/AFP   Mr Trump was joined by Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff. Alongside Kim was Kim Yong Chol, a former military spy chief helping lead negotiations, and Ri Yong Ho, the North Korean foreign affairs minister. Two translators also attended.  "A lot of things are going to be solved I hope," Mr Trump said as dinner begun. "I think it will lead to a wonderful, really a wonderful situation long-term." The White House unexpectedly restricted access for the handful of reporters following the group, allowing just one print reporter into the dinner.  Two reporters who asked questions during the handshake were reportedly not allowed to attend, prompting outrage from Washington journalists over press restrictions.    A child wears a North Korean flag on her cheek outside the Vietnam-North Korea Friendship kindergarten in Hanoi Credit: Noel Celis/AFP    Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said of the incident that “due to the sensitive nature of the meeting” the group of reporters allowed in had to be “limited”. Mr Trump earlier in the day had met the Vietnamese president Nguyen Phu Trong and prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.  The US president, who was greeted by scores of children waving Vietnam and US flags before the meetings, signed trade deals that confirmed the sale of more than 100 Boeing jets to Vietnamese businesses.  Mr Trump tweeted at the start of the day: “Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize.  “The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon – Very Interesting!” But some local politicians played down the hope of the summit creating a major breakthrough.  Dr Ngo Quang Xuan, vice-chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Vietnam’s National Assembly, told The Telegraph: “It [denuclearisation] is a very sensitive and difficult objective to obtain, and that’s why it will take time – not one or two days, not one month – for the final settlement.”



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Rotterdam seizes 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka believed to be intended for Kim Jong-un

Rotterdam seizes 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka believed to be intended for Kim Jong-unThe Dutch port of Rotterdam has seized 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka allegedly destined for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his top generals. Customs officers nabbed the 3,000 cases of vodka on Friday in a vessel belonging to the Chinese company Cosco Shipping on a tip from the Russian foreign ministry. They believe the intended recipient was Kim and military commanders.  The confiscation was followed by findings that a Russian tanker secretly transferred fuel to a North Korean ship at sea at least four times in 2017 and 2018, which would violate international sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear missile programme. Two crew members told Reuters that the ship left Vladivostok ostensibly for China, but instead met up with the North Korean tanker Chon Moyng-1 at night while it was not transmitting its position.  The meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June, which has produced few concrete results Credit: Evan Vucci/AP News of these attempts to skirt the sanctions came ahead of a summit in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on Wednesday between Kim and Donald Trump, the US president. The Russian foreign minister said during his own visit to Hanoi on Monday that the US had asked Russia's advice on how to approach the summit. Moscow has recommended Washington offer security guarantees to Pyongyang in exchange for disarmament steps.  The United Nations has capped petroleum exports to North Korea and banned luxury good exports entirely, but Kim  frequently tries to circumvent these measures.  Last year, the UN listed the Chon Moyng-1 as having disobeyed sanctions with ship-to-ship fuel transfers. Previous seizures have included champagne, cheese and televisions bound for North Korea. The vodka cases found on Friday were hidden under an aircraft fuselage. Kim Jong-un visits the North Korean embassy in Vietnam before his expected meeting with Donald Trump this week Credit: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty The UN estimates that 11 million North Koreans, nearly half the country's population, are affected by chronic food insecurity and access to basic life-saving services such as health care, water and sanitation. Around a fifth of all children in North Korea are malnourished, according to the UN. The meeting with Kim in Hanoi is intended to discuss US-Korean relations but is not expected to produce any breakthroughs in convincing Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons programme. There are hopes that North Korea will renew its pledge to suspend nuclear tests and missile firings. The summit follows a historic meeting between Mr Trump and the North Korean leader in Singapore in June last year. While the event was hailed as a triumph for Mr Trump's foreign policy it produced few meaningful concessions from Kim while allowing the dictator to burnish his international standing. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will join the summit.



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Crowds line the streets as Kim Jong-un arrives in Vietnam for summit with Donald Trump

Crowds line the streets as Kim Jong-un arrives in Vietnam for summit with Donald TrumpThe normally chaotic streets of central Hanoi ground to a halt on Tuesday as Kim Jong-un’s convoy arrived in the Vietnamese capital ahead of landmark talks on denuclearisation with Donald Trump, the US president.  Curious onlookers gathered next to televisions crews outside the luxurious Melia hotel in Hanoi’s diplomatic district, waiting for hours under chilly, gloomy skies for a glimpse of the North Korean leader as he drove from the border city of Dong Dang after crossing China by train.  His black Mercedes Benz, in the middle of a convoy of at least a dozen cars, flanked by multiple police outriders, arrived shortly after 11am local time to crowds lining the streets, waving North Korean, US and Vietnamese flags, and holding up smartphones to record the moment. Vietnamese police ride ahead of the motorcade of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, enroute to his hotel ahead of the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi Some 4,000 lamp posts on Hanoi’s tree-lined streets have been decked with the flags, and a handshake design symbolising peace, while thousands of flower pots have been laid out to welcome the two leaders, who will meet for second time in under a year on Wednesday evening.  Anticipation in the city has been building for days, with residents expressing their excitement at Vietnam being catapulted into the centre of such a significant international event.  “The Vietnamese are anticipating that this will have a big impact on global politics. It’s also a good way to promote tourism here,” said Nyuyen Anh Tuyet, whose small family shop in the tourist district has been designing and selling popular T-shirts decorated with portraits of the two leaders.  The Melia was ringed with tight security on Tuesday morning, with armoured vehicles parked in nearby side streets, and access to the property was severely restricted.  Kim’s bodyguards and staff were seen inside the hotel, some floors blocked off and the hotel informed guests on Monday that they would have to endure heightened security “due to the visit of a Head of State staying at our hotel,” reported Bloomberg.  Kim Jong-un's motorcade was greeted by crowds lining the streets of Hanoi Such was the cloud of secrecy surrounding Kim’s movements that the American media travelling with the US president, and who had been due to work out of the Melia, were abruptly shifted to a new location a few hours before he arrived.  The personal saunas in the best suites of the five-star hotel, which boasts of "elegant interiors" and "gorgeous views" may offer a brief moment of relaxation for the North Korean leader, who left Pyongyang in his armoured olive green train on Sunday, chugging about 2500 miles across China, before completing the final 105-mile stretch by car.  As he arrived at the station in the Vietnamese town of Dong Dang – the first North Korean leader to visit the country since 1964 – officials were on hand to receive him at the station with a red-carpet and a military guard of honour.  Kim, wearing his trademark Mao-style black suit, was spotted smiling and waving as he stepped into his Mercedes before setting off, about a dozen bodyguards briefly running alongside the vehicle for show.  Vietnamese soldiers are guarding the Melia hotel where Kim Jong-un is staying Credit: Ye Aung Thu/AFP Little is known about his schedule before he meets President Trump for a brief one-on-one conversation on Wednesday evening.  Sarah Sanders, the White House spokesperson, told reports on Air Force One that their meeting will be followed by a social dinner, at which they will each be accompanied by two guests and interpreters.  She said that would be followed by more meetings between the two leaders on Thursday. Mr Trump does not arrive in Hanoi until Tuesday evening and he will meet with both Vietnamese president and prime minister before his first talks with Kim.  The summit in Hanoi falls just eight months after the first historic meeting of the two leaders in Singapore last June.  The Singapore summit produced a vaguely worded declaration to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but talks have since stalled over disagreements on how to do so.  While there is no real expectation that a deal will be struck this week to persuade Pyongyang to finally give up its nuclear weapons, there are hopes that the leaders could declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded only with an armistice.  "I believe that the possibility is there," the South's presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters on Monday.  "There is no way of knowing what kind of declaration it might be, but I believe the U.S. and North Korea may reach an agreement." Meanwhile, the US president tweeted as he left for Hanoi: Heading over to Vietnam for my meeting with Kim Jong Un. Looking forward to a very productive Summit!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2019 "With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse," tweeted Trump. "Without it, just more of the same." "Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!" Sign up for your essential, twice-daily briefing from The Telegraph with our free Front Page newsletter.



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Kim Jong-un offers to meet Trump for second summit, but warns US not to 'misjudge' his patience

Kim Jong-un offers to meet Trump for second summit, but warns US not to 'misjudge' his patienceKim Jong-un on Tuesday renewed a pledge to denuclearise and said he was ready to meet Donald Trump, the US president, for a second time, but the North Korean leader warned Washington not to “misjudge” his patience and that he may reverse course if there was no sanctions relief.    He delivered his latest missive in a much-anticipated live New Year’s address, dressed in a dark Western suit and looking relaxed as he spoke from a plush leather chair in a stately office lined with books and family portraits.  The 30-minute speech was also shown live on South Korean television, in a sign of how much ties have improved between the neighbouring countries after several warm meetings between their two leaders over the past year.  Mr Kim spoke of his satisfaction at the positive turn in relations with Seoul, expressing his wish to turn the armistice agreed at the end of the 1950-53 war into a fully-fledged peace deal.  But a key message of his speech was reserved for Washington, offering a gesture of peace that he said could equally be withdrawn if the US did not meet Pyongyang’s expectations on the nuclear disarmament process.  In particular, he demanded an end to South Korea’s joint military exercises with the US and to crippling economic sanctions.  People watch Kim Jong-un's speech at a railway station in Seoul Credit: Jung Yeon-je/AFP “I am always ready to sit down again with the US president at any time and will make efforts to produce an outcome that the international community would welcome," Mr Kim said, in comments translated by the Yonhap news agency.  "(But) we could be left with no choice but to seek a new way if the US does not make good on its promises, misjudges our patience, while seeking to force things unilaterally and clinging to sanctions and pressure," he said.  Ankit Panda, a North Korea expert and editor at The Diplomat magazine, summed up the speech as an opportunity for Mr Kim to “impress on Trump the need for the United States to come through with 'corresponding measures' following [North Korea's] 2018 gestures.” He added: “The suggestion is that while they may meet for a second summit, a breaking point lies ahead if the US refuses to budge on sanctions.” Mr Kim and President Trump met for their first historic summit in Singapore in June, agreeing to work together towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but without clearly defining what that statement meant.  In recent months the two sides have reached a diplomatic impasse, each accusing the other of blocking progress. While the US wants North Korea to unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons, Pyongyang has demanded more security guarantees from Washington.  Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump met for the first time in June Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters It has also accused Washington of failing to take corresponding measures following the North's unilateral dismantlement of a nuclear testing ground and suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests. “If the US responds to our active and preemptive efforts with trustworthy steps and corresponding behaviour, [relations] will move forward at an excellent and fast pace," Mr Kim said in his speech.  Some analysts suggested his message was intended to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, which has been pushing for faster diplomacy with Pyongyang. The North Korean leader appeared to be gearing up to portray the US as the obstacle to progress.  “North Korea has always been adept at putting the onus for action on the United States, taking the initiative in a way that forces Washington to either react on Pyongyang's terms or look like the obstacle to progress,” Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat specialising in the Koreas, told The Telegraph.  “Kim Jong-un drew from that playbook in his speech today by offering to take actions that might be popular in South Korea but would require US consent to lift sanctions. This puts both Seoul and Washington in a bind.”  One such sticking point could be Kim's offer to resume operations with the South at the Kaesong industrial complex in the border area, a move which would be banned under the current sanctions regime. The rest of Mr Kim’s speech, primarily tailored for a domestic audience, focused on economic and technological progress and the need to develop electricity production.



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Trump 'looks forward' to meeting Kim Jong-un for a second time after North Korean leader's keynote speech

Trump 'looks forward' to meeting Kim Jong-un for a second time after North Korean leader's keynote speechDonald Trump, the US president, has said he looks forward to a second summit with Kim Jong-un after the North Korean leader said he was ready to meet any time.  "Kim Jong Un says North Korea will not make or test nuclear weapons, or give them to others – & he is ready to meet President Trump anytime," Trump tweeted, citing a PBS News Hour report on Kim's New Year's address early on Tuesday. "I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!" he said.  Kim had used his annual speech to North Korea to issue a message to Washington that he was willing to meet President Trump to achieve their common goal of denuclearisation but warned he may be forced to take a new path if the US did not lift crippling sanctions against his regime.  “Kim Jong Un says North Korea will not make or test nuclear weapons, or give them to others – & he is ready to meet President Trump anytime.” PBS News Hour. I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2019 Analysts pointed to the selective nature of Mr Trump’s response as he did not comment on the rest of Kim’s address, which urged the US to take unspecified corresponding measures on nuclear disarmament and not to “misjudge” his patience.  Since the two leaders’ first historic meeting in Singapore in June, talks between the US and North Korea have stalled over differing interpretations of what “denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” – a goal set out in their summit agreement – actually means.  “We declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures,” said Kim in his speech.  Spoiler alert: they are not the same thing. And then there is the other section where Kim refers to “new ways” to defend NK’s sovereignty if the US doesn’t take (pretty broad) corresponding measures. I don’t want to find out what those new ways are. t.co/n5RxIQDAE1— Vipin Narang (@NarangVipin) January 2, 2019 In 2018, North Korea dismantled a nuclear testing ground and suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, but analysts pointed out that he did not offer any new concessions related to his nuclear weapons arsenal on Tuesday.  They also stressed the conditions that Pyongyang attached to future progress.  Kim’s speech contained the expectation of a response by the US to its “proactive prior efforts” with “trustworthy measures” of its own and “corresponding practical actions.” If Washington did so, “bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the process of taking more definite and epochal measures,” said the North Korean leader.  Happy New Year! Here's a brief rundown of Kim Jong Un's New Year Address, which you can read in the official English translation here: t.co/05zzOfHhwN— Joshua H. Pollack (@Joshua_Pollack) January 1, 2019 Highlighting the difference between what Kim said and what President Trump thought he said, Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, tweeted: “this is unsustainable for much longer and we are on a collision course.” Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, tweeted that nothing had changed in North Korea’s position.  “The bottom line: Kim remains dug into the same positions on nuclear diplomacy he has occupied over the last six months. He's pressing the South to break ranks with the US. And he's going to have a lot of coal dug to keep the economy humming,” he said.  



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South Korea's Kim Jong-un fan clubs prepare welcome as North Korean leader vows visit to Seoul

South Korea's Kim Jong-un fan clubs prepare welcome as North Korean leader vows visit to SeoulNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-un has written a rare letter to Seoul vowing to “frequently” meet Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, to discuss nuclear disarmament.  In the missive, described by South Korean officials as warm in tone, Kim pledged to pursue peace between the two countries and expressed regret that he had been so far unable to visit South Korea after Mr Moon invited him to do so in September.  But he expressed a strong will to visit the South Korean capital in the future and Mr Moon welcomed his overtures via his social media account. “If we meet together with sincerity, there is nothing we cannot achieve,” Mr Moon said. The North Korean leader, long denounced as a dictator in the South, can expect a warm welcome from at least a section of the South Korean population if he arrives. In recent months fan clubs have sprung up to prepare a welcoming party for his visit.  Earlier this month, dozens of South Korean university students in black winter coats sat down on a frozen pathway in Seoul’s Maronie Park to discuss their unlikely new hero. Clutching bunches of pastel pink rosebays, symbolising the sea of flowers that greeted Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, on his trip to Pyongyang in September, they broke into song. “Let’s make reunification happen a minute sooner,” the students chanted, in a refrain referring to their political goal to see the Korean peninsula unified. The meeting, attended by The Telegraph, was a stark reflection of the perceptional shift taking place in the South. “Until now, we did not know Kim’s true self. We only saw the media portrayal of him as an evil man!” one speaker said.  Such scenes would have been unthinkable in the South Korean capital one year ago. Not only because Pyongyang was still threatening Seoul and Washington with the prospect of war but because the South’s National Security Act was prepped to jail anyone “praising, inciting or propagating the activities of an anti-government organisation.”  South Korean President Moon Jae-in was given a warm welcome in Pyongyang in September Credit: Pool/AP The enforcement of the 1948 law has been relaxed during President Moon’s 18-month-old administration as he pursues a diplomatic détente with Pyongyang to halt its nuclear weapons and missiles programme and bring peace to the peninsula.  The more tolerant political atmosphere has allowed at least a dozen civic groups – collectively known as the ‘Paektu Praise Committee’- to spring up as an unofficial welcoming squad for Kim’s planned visit to Seoul.  Although the confirmation and timing of his unprecedented trip has not yet been nailed down, the groups are already preparing. Some are learning the dance moves of a North Korean art troupe, while others are visiting schools to collect welcome messages.  At the Maronie Park event in mid-December, enthralled students watched a short drama about a local family excited about Kim coming to Seoul. “I like our Chairman Kim more than BTS!” yelled the family’s father, referring to a K-pop band that has stormed the global charts this year.  To one side, a pop-up photo gallery displayed highlights of 2018’s Korean diplomatic calendar – Kim and President Moon’s first meeting on the border in April, holding their hands in the air, smiling with their wives on a group trip to the North’s Mount Paektu.  A student welcome committee organised a pop-up gallery in Seoul of President Moon's meetings with Kim Credit: Junho Lee “I believe the events we hold influence people’s reactions to Kim’s visit. Many people who didn’t really know about Kim’s visit see our event and learn more,” said participant Ha In-cheol, 23. “We do receive many positive reviews. People write postcards saying ‘Welcome to the South’, ‘We hope you visit us soon’. We also sell stickers and badges welcoming Kim and many people buy them,” he said.  In a Telegraph interview, Kim Han-sung, 28, who heads up the ‘Korea Progressive University Student’s Union’, a branch of the praise committee, said the welcoming parties had been inspired in part by President Moon’s warm reception in Pyongyang.  “The people there welcomed him with the Unified Korea flag and flowers. We plan on doing the same thing when Kim comes here. We are also planning for a candlelight cultural festival, campaigns, and street performances to welcome him,” he said.  The groups are practicing songs popular with the North’s Samjiyon orchestra, a traditional music ensemble that performed at the South Korea Winter Olympics earlier this year. The orchestra’s greatest hits include “Let us run towards the future” and “We welcome you”.  Left wing groups in Seoul are taking a positive view of Kim Jong-un Credit: Junho Lee “All these songs are very meaningful in the relationship of the two Koreas,” said Mr Kim.  But he admitted that, despite a generally positive public reaction to their street activities, pro-Pyongyang activists were coming under fire online. “We receive lot of attacks on the internet,” he said.  The rise of left-wing groups promoting positive engagement with Kim Jong-un has also sparked a backlash from conservatives which analysts say could erode public support for Mr Moon. The president’s ratings are already on a downward spiral due to the country’s economic woes.  Meanwhile, defectors who have taken shelter in the South after fleeing hardships and persecution in the pariah regime have also been left aghast at Kim’s sudden surge in popularity after long being portrayed as a ruthless dictator.  At the Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) office in Seoul, some said they were baffled by the positive reactions to his planned visit, reported the Korea Times.  “I had a miserable life in North Korea, I was sentenced to one of the harsh prison camps. Later, after I was released, I escaped, but I got captured and sent back. Then my life in that living hell became even worse,” said Eunhwa, a woman who arrived in the South in 2015.  “I'm so surprised to hear South Koreans saying nice things about Kim Jung-un. It means they really don't understand the evil to the north.” Mikyung, a woman who escaped North Korea in 2016 said she was amazed at the South’s high expectations about Kim’s desire for peace. “It should be clear to anyone who understands the regime that it is seeking survival on its own terms, not to compromise,” she said.  “He will continue trying to exert complete control over everyone within North Korean territory and maybe even the entire Korean Peninsula.”        



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Inside North Korea: How Kim Jong-un is carefully crafting a personality cult to keep grip on power

Inside North Korea: How Kim Jong-un is carefully crafting a personality cult to keep grip on powerThe tiny five-year-olds, dressed in pink tutus and bright, sequined shirts, were angelic as they sang in perfect chorus at the end of a half hour performance at the Changgwang kindergarten in downtown Pyongyang. Singing in harmony and clapping in unison, the smiling infants performed their catchy melody: “Our father is General Kim Il Sung…our home is our party…We envy nothing in the world.” Visitors to the modern and well-equipped boarding school leave with an image of idyllic childhood after seeing pupils light up at the chance to show the few foreigners allowed to enter the country their high-tech game machines, sports classes, ballet performances, and immaculate artwork. But the demonstrations also offer an insight into one of the more chilling aspects of North Korean life: a conditioning from infancy to express fawning devotion to the ruling Kim family. Three generations of the dynasty, from current leader Kim Jong-un, to his father Kim Jong-il, and war hero grandfather, Kim Il Sung, are venerated as deities and their personality cults permeate daily life with a suffocating effect. Kim Jong-il greets residents at one of Pyonyang's subway entrances Credit: Eddie Mulholland But while the two elder Kims are omnipresent – their portraits adorning the walls of every household, factory, school, even metro carriages – the young, current leader has so far resisted self-aggrandising monuments. However, in a move seen as an attempt to cement the 35-year-old as life-long ruler and to head off any possible leadership challenge, he is rapidly creating his own generational chapter of family mythology through tales of his own benevolence, superhuman talents and exemplary feats. According to some of the most outlandish claims, he learned to drive at age three and became a competitive sailor at nine. Last year, state-run media reported his ability to change the weather as he ascended the country’s sacred Mount Paektu through snow in black, leather shoes. Wedding groups gather at the Korean Revolution Museum to lay flowers at the statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il Credit: Eddie Mulholland In drip feed of carefully controlled state-published images of the leader, Kim is frequently photographed imparting his wisdom to officials scribbling in notebooks or to emotionally-overcome workers. On visits around Pyongyang last week the Telegraph learned of his “expert instructions” on the design of the natural history museum and on how to improve football boots. At the maternity hospital, Mun Chang-un, a guide, attributed the introduction of the epidural injection to the leader’s sage advice.   Portraits of North Korea's former leaders even make their way into the subway carriages Credit: Eddie Mulholland The sculpting of future generations to ensure their unwavering faith in the wisdom of the country’s past and current “great leaders” is a top priority for the regime to keep its grip on power.  In Changgwang, some 800 children living apart from their working parents, sing of their wish for Kim Jong-un to visit. In a history class, one boy sprang from his seat. “I will uphold highly the great, respected Kim Jong-un,” he said to joyful clapping from his classmates.  At the school’s entrance, a floor to ceiling painting in soft pastels of Kim Il Sung surrounded by children, some sitting on his lap, frames him as a modern-day Jesus.   “Let the little children come to me..the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” says Jesus in the Gospel of St Matthew.  “Young people are the successors to the revolution, a shock brigade in building a thriving nation and masters who will shoulder the future of Kim Il Sung’s nation,” states the red book of Kim Jong Un Aphorisms, volume 1, page 52.  North Korea claims to be a non-religious state, but it has simply replaced religion with Kim family worship.  Citizens bow deeply to imposing wax sculptures of “Eternal President” Kim Il Sung, while the party faithful proudly wear a red lapel pin depicting him and his son. The absence of Kim Jong-un billboards and portraits is noticeable and unexplained, although he is still officially idolised.  Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung look down upon the population across the capital Credit: Eddie Mulholland He could be taking things slowly while moulding his own cult-like image around that of his grandfather, the most popular of the Kims, suggested Robert Kelly, a political science professor at South Korea’s Busan university. “He is famously styling himself after Kim Il Sung, with the hair and the weight.” He added: “It seems like the propaganda apparatus didn’t really miss a beat. Kim Jong-un has been given all the relevant titles, he’s been given the same majesty and superstitious exaggeration.” Objects Kim once touched are revered – a hospital bed he sat on, a chair he used when addressing textile workers, now encased in a plastic box. Every factory has its own story of his concern to improve workers’ lives.  At the model Jangchon vegetable farm on the city’s periphery, deputy manager Kim Yong-ho, 53, spoke of his joy when the “great Marshall” visited. “I felt really proud to have met such a great man as the leader of our country! He is like the sun to us,” he said.   Such is the depth of mass indoctrination that even the most innocuous everyday occurrences prompt spontaneous gratitude to the leader.  Student Kim Song-gwang won an orange balloon after kissing a dolphin during a Sunday afternoon performance at the aquarium. “I am really impressed by the love and care of our great Marshall Kim Jong-un that we are enjoying ourselves in this wonderful location,” he said, when asked about the event.  Portraits sit above the sofa at the home of Kim Chun-Son. All portraits must be sanctioned by the state before being hung  Credit: Eddie Mulholland But unlike his father and grandfather, Kim faces the challenge of keeping his people isolated from the global internet age to sustain his legendary status.  As a result, the flow of outside information is still deeply curtailed. Most citizens may only access the state intranet and its heavily censored content, while calls or emails to foreigners must be officially registered.  Foreign news is highly restricted. One educated Pyongyang resident recounted the details of the June Singapore summit between Kim and Donald Trump, the US president, but had not heard of the Thai cave rescue which gripped the world for two weeks. Pornography and Bibles are considered to be “evil methods of infiltration”, used to “destabilise society.” Individualism is discouraged, dissent is punished. In one of the more bizarre restrictions, men and women may not dye their hair, and should choose from approved styles, including the “butterfly”, “seagull” and “coiled bundle.” Korea experts question how long Kim can maintain such draconian control? Although popular for improving the economy and securing the North’s nuclear weapons, Kim still faced future challenges to his power, said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin university.  “In order to keep the country stable they have to keep it isolated. If they open it, it will be suicidal for the elite and even for many common people because if you have revolution in North Korea it’s going to be very messy and bloody,” he said.  Visitors to the Changgwang Kindergarten are presented with an idyllic image of childhood in North Korea Credit: Eddie Mulholland “Basically, you cannot maintain such a level of ideological mobilisation forever. Information is getting in. Kim Jong-un is now taking it very seriously, he is doing what he can to prevent people from learning too much about the outside world. But he cannot fully stop it.” In a sign that the secluded society is slowly opening up, Oh Song Chong, 25, the soldier who was shot while made a daring defection across the border last year, told Japan’s Sankei Shimbun paper this week that “probably 80% of my generation is indifferent and has no loyalty,” to Kim.  “I actually think that most North Koreans think the ideology is kind of bunk,” said Robert Kelly. “My sense is that it serves two purposes. Firstly, it’s a mobilisation tool and the second is that without the Kim cult then North Korea just becomes a poorer version of South Korea.” For now, the regime’s imperative remains shaping the minds of schoolchildren.  At the Mangyongdae schoolchildren’s palace, a surreal after-school club that hosts regular performances for tourists, students sang and executed flawless dance routines in praise of the nation’s achievements.  Ri Jin-hyang, a 12-year-old guide, wearing the red scarf of the Children’s Union, a political organisation linked to the ruling Workers’ Party, was unsure what to reply when asked what she knew about the UK.  But her response on America was immediate and scripted to perfection. “The US is the country that invaded us,” she said.



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Kim Jong-un gets his kicks but rockets absent at North Korea's 70th birthday bash

Kim Jong-un gets his kicks but rockets absent at North Korea's 70th birthday bashNorth Korea on Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding with a parade of goose-stepping soldiers, tanks and military hardware, but it held back on displaying its intercontinental ballistic missiles, believed to be capable of hitting the United States.  The parade was considerably more muted than the bombast seen in previous years and much of the mass public event was devoted to lauding civilian efforts to strengthen the local economy.  Analysts said the switch in focus and absence of the usual visual jingoism not only underscored leader Kim Jong-un’s strong emphasis on the economy but could also be interpreted as a conciliatory gesture towards Washington.  Sunday morning’s parade came amid stalled diplomatic talks with the US over the issue of denuclearisation. It had been feared that the appearance of advanced missiles would have been viewed as a provocation by the Trump administration and could have destabilised the uneasy détente that has existed since the two countries’ leaders met at a historic June summit in Singapore.   Washington and Pyongyang have reached an impasse over the starting point for disarmament. The US wants Kim to proceed with denuclearisation first, but North Korea wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement to formally end the Korean War of 1950-53.  North Koreans wave flowers at Kim Jong-un as he surveys their procession from a balcony Credit: Ed Jones/AFP However, the stalemate has been showing signs of softening in recent days. On Friday President Trump told reporters on Air Force One that a personal letter from Kim Jong-un was going to be delivered soon. “I think it’s going to be a positive letter,” he predicted.  Earlier the president had tweeted his thanks to Kim for his “unwavering faith” in him, adding “We will get it done together!” in reference to denuclearisation.  Flare-up: aeroplanes forming the number 70 fly in formation Credit: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan “Kim and Trump are trading gestures to appease the US Congress and show to the world that the deal is on. And, indeed, the deal is on but Kim will not fully denuclearise,” North Korea analyst Loretta Napoleoni told The Telegraph.  Analysts have repeatedly warned that despite the current thaw on the Korean Peninsula, Kim has never committed to fully surrendering his nuclear weapons.  Korean People's Army soldiers march across Kim Il-sung Square Credit: ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images Jeffrey Lewis, a nonproliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, tweeted that the understated nature of the Pyongyang parade indicated that North Korea “wants a version of the Israel deal.” He explained: “They don’t test nuclear weapons or show them off at parades; we pretend they don’t exist.” According to reporters at the scene, the parade was split into two sections, civilian and military. The military segment featured soldiers wearing uniforms from different periods of national history, then switching to civilian groups, ranging from nurses to construction workers alongside colourful floats.  Kim Jong-un clasps the hand of Chinese envoy, Li Zhanshu during the parade Credit: Ed Jones/AFP Kim surveyed the procession from a balcony in Kim Il Sung square, at times locking hands with Li Zhanshu, a senior envoy sent by Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.  Foreign delegations from Russia, Syria, Vietnam and African nations reflected Kim’s concerted push this year in terms of promoting his own personal diplomacy and trying to cultivate a more statesman-like image. French actor Gerard Depardieu was in attendance Credit: SEBASTIEN BERGER/AFP/Getty Images In a break from recent tradition, he did not address the crowd. Instead Kim Yong-nam, the country’s ceremonial head of state told the audience that North Korea had achieved status as a military power, and would now pursue efforts to strengthen its economy. A gala was held on the eve of the 70th anniversary Credit: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan The anniversary celebrations also mark the revival of North Korea's iconic mass games after a five-year hiatus. The mass games involve tens of thousands of people performing precisely choreographed dancing in a symbol of national unity.   This year's spectacle – tickets start at just over $ 100 and go up to more than $ 800 per seat – also has a strong economic theme.



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