Monday, October 11, 2010

All hail the boy emperor

October 10, 2010

North Korea, a past master of pageantry, has staged a spectacular coming-out ceremony for its leader-in-waiting, Kim Jong Un, while making it clear that his ailing father Kim Jong Il, remains very much in command. The two men reviewed a parade of tanks, missiles and goose-stepping solders which cut through the centre of Pyongyang, providing citizens with a striking demonstration of the Kim dynasty’s power and its plans to keep it in the family.

Extraordinarily for a country that likes to keep the foreign media at bay, North Korean officials suddenly let it be known a couple of days before the event that Western correspondents would be allowed to attend. Journalists were told they could fly to Pyongyang on October 9th to attend a military parade the following day marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers’ Party. It was only after we arrived (some 80 astonished Western journalists in all) that officials made it clear that the two Kims would be there too. North Korea, it seemed, wanted Western eyes to confirm the dynastic succession strategy that the party approved about two weeks earlier at a rare conclave. It was to be the first sighting by foreign journalists of Kim Jong Un, who is the third son of Kim Jong Il and still in his late 20s.