North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to have skipped an event marking the death of his father on the weekend, leading to speculation among South Korean observers that he may be concentrating on devising plans for the new year.
The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Sunday that the country’s senior officials visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang the previous day to pay tribute to Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s father who died on December 17, 2011.
Officials from the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the standing committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly, along with those representing the military, visited the palace, where Kim Jong-il and his own father, North Korean founder Kim II-sung, lie in state, Yonhap News Agency reported quoting KCNA.
Kim Jong-un had visited the palace to mark all previous anniversaries of his father’s death and even organised major commemorative events on the third, fifth and 10th anniversaries.
Hong Min, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said that Kim may have spent the weekend trying to come up with plans for 2023.
“There is no indication that something important happened that prevented him from visiting the palace,” Hong said.
“It is possible that Kim Jong-un and his close aides instead visited Mt. Paekdu in Samjiyon to map out plans for the new year.
“If Kim had skipped Saturday’s event for a meeting in Pyongyang, then the North Korean people would have a hard time accepting that,” Hong added. “But if he had indeed visited Mt. Paekdu, which is considered sacred, then the people would understand it as a trip to lay the foundation for a turning point.”
Also on Sunday, North Korea bristled at South Korea’s plans to redesignate the communist regime as an “enemy” and to release a report on North Korea’s dismal human rights situation.
On December 6, South Korean government sources said the draft for the country’s defence white paper, to be published in January, includes an expression referring to North Korea and its military as an enemy for Seoul. The word had last been used to describe North Korea in South Korea’s defense white paper in 2016.
Meari, a North Korean propaganda outlet, took exception to the move on Sunday, saying it revealed South Korea’s true intentions for confrontations.
Another propaganda site, Uriminjokkiri, said South Korea will push inter-Korean affairs to the brink if it goes ahead with plans to publish a report on North Korean human rights.
Seoul said on December 9, it plans to map out a three-year blueprint to improve North Korea’s human rights situation and will publish an annual report on rights conditions there as early as March 2023.
North Korea has often taken umbrage at South Korea’s and others’ attempts to discuss its human rights situation, saying they violate North Korea’s sovereignty.
Uriminjokkiri reiterated such sentiment Sunday, saying South Korea would be denying the dignity and sovereignty of North Korea with the publication of the report.