Recent events in reclusive North Korea (NoKor) seem to indicate that Great Leader Kim Jong Un is far from emulating the ways and leadership of his late father, Dear Leader and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, Marshall Kim Jong-Il. On the contrary, his demeanor has been observed as one trying to distance himself from his late father’s style of ruling.
Kim Jong Il would never have openly acknowledged the failed rocket launch in April, held a 20-minute speech on television about the fiasco, opens his coat on warm days during visits to barracks and factories, and even lets his underlings occasionally embrace him.
But, the rotund young man with an odd haircut, who is only some six months into being NoKor’s Great Leader, has done all these, and many more, including appearing in public with a woman at his side and attending a gala featuring actors dressed up as Disney characters.
According to reports coming mostly from friendly neighbor China, controls are seemed to be loosening up as more and more North Koreans or at least those who live in the privileged capital city of Pyongyang — have been going out in public wearing more modern clothing. They have also seen students wearing fashionable outfits and young men who have gelled their hair in the style of South Korean actors and singers. At private markets, imported clothing has also become popular, such as the traditional bell-shaped “Hanbock” dress, which is worn with a slightly different cut and brighter colors in South Korea.
These small changes in the daily lives of North Koreans are said to be the result of the increasing amount of information trickling into the country on DVDs, CDs, videos and USB sticks about life abroad — and particularly about life in South Korea, the enemy neighboring state.
But, one significant move that Kim Jong Un has done lately that caused many people outside of NoKor to question is – why was its military chief Ri Yong-ho been removed from his position and all other official posts, which includes that of being vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission and his top role in the ruling Workers’ Party?
Ri Yong-ho was made army chief three years ago under Kim Jong-il. He regularly appeared at state occasions beside him until his death in December 2011, after ruling NoKor for almost two decades.
In fact, the former army chief was also one of seven top officials to accompany the younger Kim as he followed the hearse containing his father’s body at his state funeral.
Ri was seen as having a key role in the transition of power in NoKor, from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un.
That Ri was removed because of “illness” without specifying details of his condition or any indication of his successor as head of the army leaves many skeptics wondering if this is the beginning of a new direction Kim Jong Un wants North Korea to go – with him fully in control of the military.