N.K. leader’s frequent military visits spawn speculation
SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s repeated visits to the military may be a sign of weakness rather than strength, as the new leader desperately seeks to foster loyalty within the key backbone of the regime, analysts in Seoul said Tuesday.
The young Kim, who rose to power last month after the Dec. 17 death of his father Kim Jong-il, paid eight visits to different military units this month, starting with an inspection of a tank division on New Year’s Day, according to Yonhap News Agency’s analysis of news reports released by the North’s state media.
The new leader, thought to be in his late 20s, also visited an institute for military officials and attended a concert given by a military orchestra, bringing to 10 his total number of military-related public activities. Of his remaining four public appearances this month, one was a visit to a construction site managed by the armed forces.
In comparison, his father Kim Jong-il, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 17 years, met with the military only once in a total of 14 public appearances in January last year.
“The fact that Kim Jong-un is making such frequent visits to military units is evidence that he does not enjoy solid support within the armed forces,” said Baek Seung-joo, a senior analyst at the state-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses. “(The visits) are aimed at boosting his presence among military officials and consolidating his power base.”
The state media’s prompt reporting of Kim’s military inspections may serve to convince the North Korean people of their leader’s authority within the armed forces, he added.
The young leader was designated as a four-star general in 2010 and declared supreme commander of North Korea’s armed forces after his father’s demise, though he is believed to have little, if any, military experience.
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