Kim Jong Un’s First Speech Exalts Military, Unification

Kim Jong Un speaks at a military parade in Pyongyang celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth on April 15th, 2012, as seen from space. Photo credit Digital Globe, Inc. via MSNBC.

As far as we know, Kim Jong Il, late president of North Korea, spoke publicly one time only during his thirty years in the limelight of his country’s ruling party. When he did, it was a single line. His father, Kim Il Sung, had given a speech during celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the North Korean People’s Army’s establishment; after the speech, the younger Kim stepped to the microphone and voiced his only public sentiment: “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the Korean people’s army!” (see it in this video).

That was in 1992. The Western media heard his voice a few more times; for instance, in this video from 2007. Still, he gave no more speeches that his own country would hear.

Kim Jong Un gave his first public speech on April 15th, during the 100th-anniversary celebrations of his grandfather’s birth. It is the nation’s most important holiday. The younger Kim’s speech was extensive—20 minutes long—and stands in sharp contrast to his father’s reclusiveness.

Yet the content of the speech matches the sentiment shared by his father’s single line almost perfectly. Continue reading



There is a difficult balance between honoring the dead and the living.

This summer I visited Cheonanham, the memorial for a Korean Navy corvette that had sunk in March 2010. At that time, I had been teaching English in Jeollanam-do. We heard that a ship had sunk off of the coast, and 46 Korean sailors were dead. I remember the televised funeral services.

The ship was recovered from the seabed in two halves; upon investigation by an international team (South Korea called in foreign experts to increase the investigation’s credibility), the investigators determined that the ship broke in two from something called a bubble jet, caused by the explosion of a torpedo a few meters from the hull of the ship. The resulting pressure differential tore the ship in two.

Approaching the Cheonanham (author’s photo)

Continue reading

In the News – Kim Jong-un ‘Watched Long-Range Missile Launch’


In the News – Kim Jong-un ‘Watched Long-Range Missile Launch’

 Korean Central Television on Sunday, North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un appears in a military vehicle (top) and a helicopter at an undisclosed place in North Korea. /KCTV-Yonhap”]
North Korean state TV marked new leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday on Sunday with a documentary that claimed he watched the launch of a long-range missile alongside his late father Kim Jong-il in April 2009.

The 50-minute film focusing on Kim junior’s so-called on-the-spot guidance tours said he accompanied his father during a visit to the control center for the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite. The launch of the fictitious satellite was a thin cover for what is widely believed to be an attempt to test a long-range missile. Continue reading