North Korean top military officials often look nervous and uneasy on state broadcasts as they face leader Kim Jong-un, well aware of his sometimes brutal struggle to bring the unruly military under control.
In one scene broadcast last week, Kim Jong-un can be seen sitting in the podium, when he gestures to Armed Forces Minister Pak Yong-sik to sit down. Pak, the North’s No. 2 military official … stares at Army politburo chief Hwang Pyong-so, the top-ranked military official. Kim then gestures Hwang to sit as well, but Hwang also appears too nervous to sit next to the leader. Eventually he sits down awkwardly after saluting Kim and Pak follows suit, also visibly nervous.
As the officials gather for a commemorative photo, Hwang stands next to Kim … but then suddenly steps aside, apparently mindful of being spotted standing next the leader for an extended period. Hwang was also pictured accompanying Kim at a military ceremony in June and suddenly back-stepping after realizing he had ended up walking ahead of the leader.
“Kim Jong-un’s reign of terror appears to have made officials very cautious,” a researcher at a South Korean state-run think tank said. “The atmosphere seems to have worsened after Kim’s key aide Choe Ryong-hae was demoted again and sent to a reeducation camp.”
Kim has carried out sweeping purges since he came to office, tacitly killing his father Kim Jong-il’s “military-first” doctrine that led to the army becoming a voracious and belligerent state within the state.