Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s first speech to the public has drawn the hermit kingdom back into the spotlight with a focus on his youth and deadly nuclear arsenal. Propaganda in North Korea has raised the youngest Kim to the heights of supreme status shared only by his father, the late Kim Jong-il, and grandfather, the founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Kim Il-sung.
Yet, even the best propaganda cannot hide his youth and the nation’s many problems among which include outdated industries, a dead-on-arrival domestic economy, power and fuel shortages, and chronic starvation.
Kim Jong-un’s leadership of the funeral procession for his father Kim Jong-il in December of 2011 solidified what many North Korea watchers had speculated for some time; namely, Kim Jong-il’s youngest son was not only his successor but also moving through the ranks at an accelerated pace.
Ever since Kim Jong-il’s death the North Korean propaganda machine works in overdrive to establish Kim Jong-un’s Juche revolutionary credentials, generating posters, video documentaries, and radio programs lauding the young Kim’s expert guidance and leadership across all sectors of North Korean life.
Of course, North Korea is the most isolated nation on the planet and this hermetic seal extends to its media with state-owned ministries handling the production of all the various schmaltz in support of the Kim dynasty.
The development of media technology as well as efforts on the part of citizens of South Korea to expose the North to outside information has challenged the dominance of the traditional means of control. One such popular example of a South Korean effort to bring media freedom to the North are ‘truth balloons,’ balloons containing pamphlets and radios sent over the DMZ in the hopes of reaching rural North Koreans when they fall to the ground on the other side.