North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife attended a Lunar New Year’s Day concert in Pyongyang where he received thunderous cheers from audience members and artists who praised him for heralding a “new era” of national power, state media reported.
The North’s official media has been highlighting Kim’s authoritarian leadership following a spree of missile tests in January, which some experts see as an attempt to pressure Washington over deadlocked nuclear negotiations after two years of pandemic border closures and economic decay.
The Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday said Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, were greeted with “stormy cheers” after arriving at Pyongyang’s massive Mansudae Art Theater for Tuesday’s concert.
KCNA said the audience appreciated that Kim was “ushering in on this land a new world and a new era when the people’s ideals and happiness and desire for building a powerful country are comprehensively translated into reality.”
Artists performed songs and dances that demonstrated the “single-minded unity” of North Korean people and their devotion to build a socialist country “to be envied by the world,” the KCNA said.
Footage from state TV showed Kim and Ri smiling and talking at the theater while sitting near Kim Kyong Hui, the leader’s aunt who was making her first public appearance in two years.
Kim Kyong Hui’s fate had been in doubt after Kim Jong Un had her husband and the North’s then-No. 2 official, Jang Song Thaek, executed for treason and corruption in 2013. Rumors that she had been purged or executed by her nephew circulated for years before she was seen — also at a Lunar New Year’s concert — with Kim Jong Un in 2020.
Meanwhile, a North Korean documentary broadcast on Tuesday showed a limping Kim as he tackled the impoverished country’s “worst-ever hardships” amid the coronavirus pandemic and sanctions over its weapons programmes.
Titled “The Great Year of Victory, 2021”, the 110-minute film chronicled a series of achievements throughout the year including on missile development, construction and efforts to beat the pandemic.
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The narrator repeatedly lauded such projects as signs of “victory” led by a noticeably thinner Kim, in line with previous such documentaries used by state media to craft a semi-divine personality cult around him.
At one point in the film, Kim was described as having “completely withered away,” according to a translation by NK News, and he is seen struggling to walk down makeshift stairs during a visit to a rainy construction site.
“This video showed his motherly side where he completely dedicated his own body to realize people’s dreams,” the narrator said.