Video footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un venting tears of frustration over the slow pace of economic reform in his backward country is making the rounds of the corridors of power in Pyongyang. According to a defector to South Korea who once served North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, this different and rarely seen side of Kim Jong Un featured in a documentary to educate party officials who lead the lowest rungs of the leadership apparatus or state-run enterprises.
The video shows Kim Jong Un standing on an unspecified stretch of coastline gazing toward the horizon as tears trickle down his cheek. A narrator explains that the North Korean leader is distraught over his inability to radically overhaul the economy to make the reclusive country a vibrant power.
According to the defector, the video surfaced from around April and was shown to those in high-ranking positions at local branches of the Workers’ Party or state-run companies. Portraying the North Korean leader in a moment of weakness may well have been a sly propaganda ploy to convince subordinates to work much harder so as not to reduce him to tears.
The defector speculated the video was also intended to convince the rank and file to accept the anticipated fruits of on-off summit talks tentatively set for June 12 between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore. With preliminary negotiations between North Korea and the United States focusing on Pyongyang renouncing its nuclear program, any announcement of such an agreement with Washington would represent a fundamental turnaround in North Korea’s foreign policy.
Seen in this light, the video may be an attempt to downplay any sense of alarm triggered by a sudden shift in policy. As that position has not yet filtered down to the masses, who clearly embrace the notion of an all-powerful North Korea in the face of evil adversary the United States, the video may be intended to prepare the nation for the day that will mark a sea change in the country’s fundamental outlook and way of dealing with the rest of the world.