This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
A recent series of North Korean missile tests ordered by national leader Kim Jong Un has left citizens of the nuclear-armed state unimpressed, with many calling the expensive launches wasteful in a country short of food.
Meanwhile, others say the tests are only a bluff aimed at the U.S. that puts the North Korean people’s livelihoods at risk.
In a bid to project an image of national strength, Kim Jong Un has personally supervised seven missile tests so far this year, a resident of Ryongchon county in North Pyongyan province told RFA’s Korean Service on Aug. 11.
“But on hearing the news of these launches, even people not interested in politics are saying that the country’s leader is now busy bluffing the U.S. and doesn’t care about the situation of the North Korean people,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
North Koreans’ lives are getting harder and harder, RFA’s source said.
“The television news is saying with satisfaction that North Korea is displaying its power and authority with the Supreme Leader’s test of this series of missiles,” the source said.
“But public sentiment is turning around because people are hearing reports that defense scientists and engineers have been ordered to ‘do their best’ to follow the [ruling] Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee’s policy of developing tactical nuclear weapons.”
“These days, merchants in the local markets are sitting on their stands and chatting about nuclear weapons and missiles,” the source said, adding, “They say that the money it takes to make a single bullet would buy a single chicken, and that it must therefore be costing millions of dollars to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.”
“They blame the authorities for this, saying that by playing with missiles, it’s as if they have simply launched hundreds of thousands of tons of food into the sky.”
Also speaking to RFA, a second source in North Pyongyan said that Kim Jong Un has broken his promises to the world to rein in the country’s illicit nuclear weapons and missile program.
“Last year, the Highest Dignity said he would stop developing nuclear missiles, saying this would lift the U.S. economic sanctions. And then he blew up the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in front of journalists from around the world.”
“Now, however, he has been launching a new ballistic missile every few days this year. So how can the international community trust Kim Jong Un?”
Kim Jong Un excuses his recent missile tests by saying they send “a stern warning” against joint military exercises by rival South Korea and the United States, the source said, adding that North Korea’s leaders say their nuclear weapons and missile program will provide a strong national defense and secure the lives and future of the North Korean people.
“However, North Korean residents are well aware that this is nothing more than a trick by Kim Jong Un to maintain his family’s three-generation hereditary system of rule,” he said.