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Kim Jong Un Speech at the Military Parade: Thanking the People while Forewarning Arduous March

Dr. Han Ki-bum(chair research fellow, North Korea Research Institute)

‘Threat of Strategic Weapons’ is Looming from North Korea’s Late-Night Military Parade


North Korea claims that ‘Kim Il Sung founded KWP on October 10, 1945.’ But KWP was already set up in Seoul by Park Hun Young immediately after the liberation. October 10 was the day that the North Korea Branch of KWP was founded (Five Northwestern Provincial Party Member and Devotee Convention on October 10-13 in Pyongyang). Since then KWP North Korea Branch was renamed to ‘North Korea Communist Party’ (presumed to be in early June 1946), and subsequently merged with North Korea New People’s Party to form ‘North Korea Workers’ Party’ (August 1946). As the Workers' Party in South Korea was virtually destroyed after the establishment of the South Korean regime, Workers’ Parties in North and South Korea nominally merged in June 1949 to form the ‘Korea Workers’ Party.'

North Korea celebrates October 10 as the ‘founding day of KWP,' and in every 5th year various events happen such as military parades, mass rallies, commemorative events, candlelight marches and mass games. On the occasion Pyongyang also shows off its friendly relations with the remaining socialist regimes such as China, Vietnam and Cuba. But Pyongyang did not invite any foreign dignitaries for this year’s KWP anniversary. Some analysts conjecture that it was concerned about the spread of Covid19. It is more likely that North Korea wanted to maximize the ‘surprise element’ of the parade.

Unlike the previous ones, it seems that this year’s parade started at midnight on October 10th in order to enhance the effect of the event with fireworks and lighting and to bring out the menacing appearance of the strategic weapons. The fact that none of the tens of thousands of residents and soldiers were wearing masks seems intended to back up Kim Jong Un’s claim that ‘there is not a single COVID patient.' People were made to wait for hours and used as props for a typical theater state.

It appears that this event was directed by Kim Yoe Jung because a late night event that gives many military commanders so much trouble can be initiated only by persons in power. A number of emotional expressions in Kim Jong Un’s speech also suggest Kim Yoe Jung’s involvement. At the end of the statement on July 10th that rejected the possibility of US-NK summit within this year, Kim Yoe Jung said “Comrade Chairman gave me permission to personally obtain the DVD recording of the (US) Independence Day commemorative ceremony.” This appears to mean that Kim Jong Un mandated Kim Yoe Jung with ‘the responsibility of directing the KWP anniversary event.'



Kim Jong Un repeatedly say, “Thank you,” “Sorry”


Kim Jong Un spoke for 28 minutes (7,000 words) at the ‘late night military parade.' The contents were 1) a greeting, 2) expressing ‘appreciation for people’s trust in the party,' 3) boasting ‘war deterrence readiness’ as a past achievement, and 4)a vision for improving people’s livelihood.

In summary, the speech gave considerable portion to express appreciation for ‘people to endure all kinds of difficulties and hardship to follow the Party,' propagandized as Kim’s and the Party’s achievements ‘the build-up of the strongest military capability that allows people  to be free from threat of war and prosper,' promised to ‘present at the 8th Party Convention the goals and strategies to realize as soon as possible the ideal society of reconstruction and prosperity.’ Major points of Kim’s speech are reviewed in the following.

First, the speech tried to appeal to people’s emotions. In a previous speech at the KWP anniversary parade 5 years ago, Kim also emphasized his ‘appreciation to the people,' ‘people-mass first policy’ and ‘serving the people till death.' This time in a ‘teary speech’ for emotional appeal, he used the highest honorifics and repeatedly thanked the people for following him with trust. He used the expression ‘thank you’ 12 times, “appreciation’ 6 times, and ‘hardship’ or ‘sorry’ at least 5 times.

Kim Jong Un stated his position on the triple challenges (the COVID 19 pandemic, natural disasters, and sanctions). Kim said, “from the start, this year was very tough and difficult every step, every day due to tremendous unexpected challenges and obstacles.” “We are the only country that has to deal with the pandemic and overcome severe natural disasters while everything is in short supply due to the long and harsh sanctions.” Kim then thanked the people by saying, “our people are the only ones in the world who understand the hardships that our country is facing and to give their support as if they are happening in their own homes.”

              While commending the reconstruction efforts by the Pyongyang party members, Kim took off his glasses and wiped tears with his handkerchief. Kim tried to allay people’s grievances by making self-blaming comments: “I regret that I have only been receiving the overwhelming trust of my people and have not been able to pay back.” “I am responsible for the great task of leading the nation in trust of the people, but have not been able to lift you out of hardship because my efforts and devotion have not been sufficient.” He then boasted that “the state of the pandemic is stabilized” and that “people are free of illness," and added, “I am grateful that no one fell victim to the vicious virus and all of you are healthy.”



              Unveiled New Strategic Weapons for ‘Enhancing War Deterrence’


              Second, the speech put pressure on neighbouring countries by mentioning “building up the strongest military capability” and “enhancing war deterrence." Kim Jong Un said, “we have built the strongest military capability to defend peace so that my people could prosper from generation to generation on the land which is forever free from war.” He stated, “we will continue to enhance our war deterrence capacity as a means to control and manage dangerous attempts and threats including nuclear threats from hostile forces.” Kim’s position on ‘enhancing nuclear deterrence’ has been reconfirmed at the Plenum of KWP Central Military Commission held on May 24 and July 18 this year as well as at the Plenary Session of KWP Central Committee in December last year.

              Kim emphasized: “Our military deterrence capability will contribute to the nation’s independence and the peace of the region, and  will neither be abused nor be used preemptively. However, if anyone damages our nation’s safety or aims military forces against us, we will mobilize all our strongest forces to punish such attempts.” In this speech, Kim toned down the aggressive stance he took in his previous speech at the Party’s 70th Anniversary five years ago (October 2015) when he said, “we will deal with any kind of war that the American imperialists want.” The statement suggests that Pyongyang will wait and see what transpires after the US presidential election, but that it is still capable of threatening neighboring countries with enhanced nuclear capabilities instead of pursuing ‘denuclearization.'

              In the military parade Pyongyang ‘sufficiently’ showed its ability to pose a military threat. It unveiled the ‘new strategic weapon’ Kim Jong Un mentioned at the Plenary Session of KWP Central Committee in December. Pyongyang made public a new ICBM (transported by 22 wheels), 2 years and 8 months after it had unveiled the Hwasung-15 (18 wheels) in February 2018. The new missile is known to use liquid fuel, but extended the range and equipped with multiple warheads with heavier payload. Also unveiled was a new SLBM Bukguksong-4 with longer range compared with Bukguksong-3,  and capable of carrying multiple warheads. The parade also showcased various new tactical weapons such as large scale rocket launchers, North Korean version of Iskander short range missiles (KN-23).


Third, with its conciliatory message, the speech is instigating confusion in South Korean society. At the end of the speech, Kim Jong Un said, “I send my warm heart to my dear fellow compatriots in the South, and wish that the day comes as soon as possible when the North and the South could overcome the pandemic and join again hand in hand.” Given the fact that Kim Jong Un sent a conciliatory message followed by the Department of United Front letter to the South on September 25 that expressed regret regarding the slaying of the South Korean official, there is a possibility of change in Pyongyang’s stance from “cut-off and termination” (Kim Yeo Jung statement in June) to “restoration of the inter-Koeran relations” (NSC standing committee meeting on October 11). It remains to be seen whether Pyongyang will respond positively to the joint investigation of the official’s death.

              Suggesting dialogue after “the pandemic crisis” means, however, that Pyongyang is not willing to talk with Seoul for the foreseeable future. Considering the way Pyongyan is showing off monstrous ICBMs and various tactical weapons aimed at the South, conciliatory words are no more than a gimmick to conceal its hostile intention, and to cause confusion in South Korean society. Uttering “my dear compatriots in the South” seems intended to appeal internally to North Koreans Kim Jong Un’s stature as a leader of a ‘nuclear power’ who will lead the nation to unification. North Korea declared that Kim was “our homeland’s one and only representative” (October 10, Rodong Shinmun).



              Will announce ‘Measures to Improve People’s Welfare’ at KWP 8th 당대회 in January Next Year


              Kim Jong Un declared that from now on he will ensure that “my people will no more face hardship and enjoy an affluent and cultured life as much as they want." “I will realize as soon as possible the prosperous ideal society that my people dream of.” He then mentioned that  he will “lay out concrete measures and detailed goals at the Party’s 8th Convention in January next year.” “I will demand the highest responsibility from all party, government, and military organizations, and make them strive to bring better tomorrow for our people,” he added.

              When Kim Jong Un urges the party, the government and the military to endeavor, the burden is borne by the people. Already, the task of starting ‘the 80 Day Battle’ after the completion of the Party anniversary event is passed on to the shoulders of the people. After the Party Convention in January next year, ‘200 Day Battle’ will start followed by others. Resources for improving people’s lives have been depleted. ‘Frontal Assault’ waged December last year failed. Kim Jong Un mentioned, “due to harsh domestic and external conditions, economic goals have not been accomplished and people’s lives have not been improved” (August 19 Plenary Session of the KWP Central Committee). He admitted, “due to typhoon damages we are forced to adjust the end of the year tasks” (September 8 Plenum of KWP Central Military Commission). If the current situation continues next year, Kim Jong Un will keep saying, ‘This is unavoidable.’




Kim Jong Un Declares Resumption of ‘Arduous March’


              Kim Jong Un is likely to heighten the intensity of ‘struggle’ both domestically and externally. Externally Kim will be willing to resort to brinkmanship after the US presidential election to secure Washington’s acknowledgement that North Korea is a nuclear power. Internally Kim will intensify efforts to mobilize the people as much as possible after the 8th Plenary Session of the Party Central Committee. He practically declared to the people the resumption of ‘Arduous March.’ Economic sanctions, shut-down of the country due to COVID-19, and typhoon damages will rapidly drag the North Korean economy downward. North Koreans will not fail to notice that Kim Jong Un’s ‘praise for the people’ is full of hypocrisy.

              The only way out for Kim is giving up nuclear weapon development and carrying out reform and opening. At the end of his speech Kim mentioned, “on the road to reaching the higher goal of building socialism, we will achieve innovation, development, and practical changes.” However, fundamental change and innovation does not seem possible.