No fanfare for Kim's fourth year as SAC head

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No fanfare for Kim's fourth year as SAC head

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee last month in a photo released by state media. [YONHAP]

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee last month in a photo released by state media. [YONHAP]

 
North Korea held no public events to celebrate its leader Kim Jong-un’s fourth year in office on Monday.  
 
The fourth anniversary of Kim Jong-un’s ascendance to the position of State Affairs Commission (SAC) chairman marked another major occasion the regime has kept low-key this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
 
Kim skipped public addresses on the birthday of his father Kim Jong-il on Feb. 16, and even more important, the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the most important festival in the country, on April 15. The latter silence sparked speculation about Kim Jong-un’s health.  
 
In past years the regime has held mass party gatherings called “central report meetings” to highlight the younger Kim’s consolidation of power with his creation of the State Affairs Commission in 2016, marking a transition of authority toward the National Defense Commission, with which his father used to rule the country. But no such event took place this year.
 
“[The North] this year appears to be cutting back on major ceremonies in which many people gather,” observed one South Korean official who asked not to be named.  
 
“North Korea claims it has zero Covid-19 patients, but it looks like it is choosing not to hold mass events for the sake of enforcing social distancing.”  
 
Backing the conjecture that the regime is ramping up quarantine measures, Kim presided over a key meeting of the party’s Central Military Commission this month – in which he suspended military plans to provoke South Korea – through a remote conference.
 
A central report meeting held to mark regime founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday in April 2019. [YONHAP]

A central report meeting held to mark regime founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday in April 2019. [YONHAP]

 
After opening schools this month following a three-month delay, students received orientations through video conferences beamed into televisions installed in classrooms, according to state news outlets.  
 
Instead of a large gathering to mark Kim’s fourth year as SAC chairman, state media on Monday focused on lavishing effusive praise on him for leading the country’s economic struggle against foreign aggressors.  
 
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, on Monday devoted its top three pages to articles praising Kim, including one editorial that called him “our sun that has risen holy and high.”  
 
Stressing that the country has continued to face serious economic difficulties due to the hostility of foreign powers, the editorial claimed Kim had “in the worst of crises raised the country’s prestige and might to the apex.”
 
BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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