North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in an address Saturday celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s ruling communist Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), apologized for not living up to the expectations of the North Korean public.
Kim described 2020 as a year of “harsh circumstances” according to a translation of his speech by KCNA Watch and the Korea Times. During his speech, Kim removed his glasses and wiped tears from his eyes.
“Our people have placed trust, as high as the sky and as deep as the sea, in me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily. I am really sorry for that,” Kim said, according to his speech, translated by KCNA Watch. “Although I am entrusted with the important responsibility to lead this country upholding the cause of the great Comrades Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il thanks to the trust of all the people, my efforts and sincerity have not been sufficient enough to rid our people of the difficulties in their lives.”
In his speech, Kim said North Korea has faced challenges in 2020 from “dealing with the anti-epidemic emergency and recovering from the catastrophic natural disasters, when everything is in short supply owing to the harsh and prolonged sanctions.”
Hong Min, the director of the North Korea division at the Korean Institute for National Unification, told The Korea Times, that Kim’s tears may be indicative of the internal pressure he faces within the country.
“It is important to look at why he has come to shed tears at such an occasion,” Hong said. “Underneath his message, one can sense that Kim is feeling a lot of pressure on his leadership. During the speech, he used terms like ‘grave challenges,’ ‘countless ordeals’ and ‘disasters unprecedented in history.’ This shows that he is having a really hard time governing, and he feels pressured from worries that his people might be upset or swayed by this kind of difficulty. That is why he put a lot of emphasis on the people in this speech.”
During his speech, Kim also repeated the claim that North Korea has had no coronavirus cases.
“First of all, I thank them for being healthy free from disease. I wanted to say this without fail. I thank them for their good health without any one of them having fallen victim to the malignant virus,” Kim said. “The fact that we have defended all our people from the harmful epidemic disease sweeping the whole world can be said to be a natural duty and success of our Party. However, I am moved by this success, and as I see their healthy appearance, I can find no word other than thanks.”
Kim credited North Korean anti-epidemic personnel for North Korea’s reported handling of the coronavirus outbreak and said, “No one would approach their patriotic and heroic devotion without shedding tears of gratitude.”
Kim ended his speech emphasizing the support and trust the North Korean people have placed in him.
“Our people, however, have always believed and absolutely trusted me, and supported my choice and determination, whatever it is,” Kim said.
Hong, commenting on Kim’s closing remarks, said, “At the end of the speech, he calls on the people to extend their full support and trust in him. From this we can see at that he feels bad about the struggles of the people, but he also feels a lot of burden and stress from the situation and is highly concerned about the stability of his regime.”