Kim Jong-un’s tearful apology to North Koreans shows he’s terrified angry masses will soon overthrow him, expert says

Kim Jong-un’s tearful apology to North Koreans shows he’s terrified angry masses will soon overthrow him, expert says
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  • Updated: 13 Oct 2020, 18:35

KIM Jong-un's tearful apology to North Korea shows he fears the fed-up masses may rise up and try to overthrow him, an expert has said.

North Korea's dictator was seen sobbing as he addressed his people and issued what seemed to be a heartfelt apology for their ongoing hardships.

11Kim Jong-un wells up as he gives a speech in Pyongyang Credit: KCNA
11Thousands rally under North Korean flags in Pyongyang on Monday Credit: AP:Associated Press

Kim took off his glasses to wipe away tears as he addressed North Korea – which has been battered by typhoons, floods, the coronavirus pandemic, and international sanctions.

Speaking at the military parade which marked the 75th anniversary of North Korea's ruling Communist Party, Kim acknowledged his failings and said "sorry".

And he did this as his brand new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) trundled through the centre of North Korea's capital Pyongyang.

Experts told The Sun Online this tearful speech is likely to be a ploy to try and deflect from the increasingly dire situation in North Korea.

And one even said it may be because Kim knows his position could be at risk from his own disillusioned people unless he starts to deliver on his promises.

Dr Ramon Pacheco-Pardo, an associate professor in international relations at King's College London, told The Sun Online that Kim is aware the biggest threat to his position comes from the North Korea's own population.

He said: "Kim understands if he wants to continue in power, he has to deliver on his promises.

"He promised the North Korean population wouldn't have to tighten then belts – and then earlier this year he had to say 'you will have to'."

North Korea cannot lie about this, the domestic population know what situation they are in

Dr Ramon Pacheco-Pardo

The expert explained while regime change will not be in the "short term, or even the mid term", Kim will be fearful of any challenges to his rule coming from inside North Korea.

The impoverished nation plows cash into nuclear missiles – but as much as 60 per cent of the nation live in absolutely poverty, according to a recent study by Vienna University.

Its wealth per person is estimated to be around £608 – in the UK it is around £31,000 – while the North Korean elite are believed to live extraordinary lives of luxury.

11North Korea fires a gun salute at the lavish paradeCredit: Reuters
11Thousands of soldiers marches past Kim Jong-un in PyongyangCredit: EPA
11North Korea showed off its arsenal of weapons on SaturdayCredit: Reuters

Dr Pacheco-Pardo told The Sun Online: "If you look at dictators around the world, when they are removed from power it happens internally rather than externally.

"Kim knows the US cannot invade – that's unthinkable with his nuclear deterrent. 

"It's likely to come from the people. Any challenge to his position would be internal."

The professor went on that he believes Kim's tearful speech is part of his ongoing effort to portray himself as a "man of the people" for North Korea.

He added: "North Korea cannot lie about this, the domestic population know what situation they are in – and from what we know the situation is even worse in 2020.

"He is implicitly saying better times should be coming and he is trying to show eventually he will try to come through diplomatically.

"That is the only way the economic situation of the people is going to improve substantially."

11Kim Jong-un waves to his people from a balcony in Pyongyang Credit: EPA

Kim broke down as he addressed the whole of North Korea in a televised speech to his nation of nearly 26million.

He said: "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.”

Invoking the country's previous leaders, Kim continued; "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."

Typhoons and floods have combined with the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing famine, and a buckling economy – worsened by heavy trade sanctions.

North Korea also was one of the first nations in the world to seal its borders in the pandemic, cutting off essential trade with its key ally China.

Edward Howell, a researcher in International Relations at the University of Oxford, told The Sun Online that Kim is likely to see "big challenges going forward" unless he balances the books.

Kim unveiled a new policy in 2018 called the "New Strategic Line", a shift in focus from nukes to sorting out his failing economy .

Mr Howell told The Sun Online: "Nuclear weapons are not cheap, and Kim has to provide on both fronts."

Mr Howell went on: "Kim is under pressure. The party shifted to the 'New Strategic Line' which was very much focused on prosperity and domestic development.

"The failure the deliver economic development is quite potent, and that may have influenced his response."

He added: "Kim's plan after he declared North Korea's nuclear programme complete was a real drastic shift to domestic economic development – and he is not been able to follow through on these goals.

"The emotionally charged the nature of the speech I think was firstly a recognition of his part that he has not been able to deliver the prosperity that he desired and that he promised to his people."

11Fireworks burst in the skies over Pyongyang Credit: MY1
11North Korea was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Communist Party Credit: Reuters
11North Koreans march through Pyongyang holding aloft candles Credit: Reuters

Cristina Varriale, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told The Sun Online she questioned whether Kim was really feeling pressure.

She said the North Korean despot wants to show he cares, and the tearful speech may have been a carefully orchestrated propaganda exercise to provide "legitimate cover" for his failures.

Kim wants to potray himself as a "benevolent leader" and used the speech to try and blame external factors for his people's increasing hardships.

Ms Varriale explained: "Ultimately, he has brought it about by wanting to develop nuclear weapons and missiles."

She went on: "The level of emotion he showed was quite surprising, I found the speech and the production of the parade more surprising than the revelation of the new ICBM.

"I think it really hammers home what Kim has tried to focus on over the last couple of years, to focus on his domestic agenda."

11North Korean soldiers wearing masks to welcome the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea Credit: AP:Associated Press

Hong Min, director of the North Korea division at the Korean Institute for National Unification, told The Korea Times: "It is important to look at why he has come to shed tears at such an occasion.

“Underneath his message, one can sense that Kim is feeling a lot of pressure on his leadership.”

And while Kim wept, it was his new 26 metre missile, believed to be one of the world's largest of its kind, that attracted the world's attention.

US President Donald Trump is said to be "angry" that Kim choose to unveil the weapon, which is believed to have range to strike the entirety of the mainland US.

Xu Tianran, an Analyst for Open Nuclear Network, told The Sun Online the missile was bigger than North Korea's previous ICBMS.

He said: "If this project is realised, it would further raise the threat level to the US. 

“However, it does send a strong political signal, and reflects the leadership's preference for an even larger weapon."

11North Korean women wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus Credit: AP:Associated Press

Trump is reported to be not happy with Kim over the new missile, despite the pals always talking up their historic and close relationship.

A source familiar with the situation told Vox that Trump is "really disappointed" in North Korea's leader and expressed his dismay to several White House officials.

South Korean bureau Yonhap News Agency reported on Saturday that the US is in talks with Asian allies about probing the military procession.

During his speech, Kim said the missiles weren't targeted at any country in particular.

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But he added: "If any force harms the safety of our nation, we will fully mobilise the strongest offensive might in a pre-emptive manner to punish them."

Also displayed at the parade were the Hwasong-15 and what appeared to be a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

A senior Trump official said: "It is disappointing to see the DPRK continuing to prioritise its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile program over working towards a brighter future for the North Korean people.

"The United States… calls on the DPRK to engage in sustained and substantive negotiations to achieve complete denuclearisation.”

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