Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kim Jong Un's first public speech

North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-Un delivered his first public speech Sunday and vowed to push for a stronger military as his country unveiled an apparently new missile. Kim addressed cheering troops and citizens waving flowers at a major military parade marking the centenary of the birth of his grandfather and the nation's founder Kim Il-Sung. The parade came just two days after the North's satellite launch fizzled out embarrassingly, when the rocket apparently exploded within minutes of blastoff. But Jong-Un, aged in his late 20s and in power for less than four months, appeared confident as he oversaw the parade featuring rockets, artillery, tanks and thousands of goose-stepping troops. "We must strengthen our military in every possible way... and accomplish the goal of building a powerful and prosperous socialist state," he told troops and civilians packing the central square named after his grandfather. "The time when the enemy threatens and blackmails us with atomic bombs has gone for good," Jong-Un said in reference to the North's nuclear weapons programme touted as one of the greatest achievements of the family dynasty which has ruled since 1948. "Let's move on towards our final victory!" he said, gesturing at cheering troops who repeatedly chanted "Mansei!" (만세 Hurray). Jong-Un, clad in his customary dark Mao suit, pledged to improve the lives of people in a nation beset by acute food shortages, an ailing economy and severe power outages.

The ruling party, he said, was determined that North Koreans, "who have endured so many challenges and faithfully served the party, will no longer have to tighten their belts and will fully enjoy socialist prosperity".

North's massive military spending could feed millions of malnourished people living outside the showpiece capital Pyongyang. The US State Department estimates that up to a quarter of the North's gross national product is spent on the 1.2-million-strong military. Washington has scrapped plans to deliver 240,000 tonnes of food aid after the launch, widely seen overseas as a disguised ballistic missile test in violation of UN resolutions. One of several missiles on display Sunday appeared new.

Kim Il Sung died in 1994 after bequeathing power to his son Kim Jong-Il. The current leader was thrust into the top post unexpectedly early when his own father Jong-Il died of a heart attack last December. He has since been cementing his grip on power, taking up top-level posts in the ruling party and on the powerful National Defence Commission last week. The new leader has a more outgoing image than his father. Kim Jong-Il is believed to have spoken just once at a major public occasion during his 17 years in power -- and that was a single sentence. Jong-Un, smiling and chatting with military leaders, waved and saluted throughout the parade from a balcony decorated with giant portraits of his father and grandfather. Kim Jong-Un, unlike his father, appears to seek a new leadership style that emphasises communication and interaction with the public, just like his grandfather did in the past. Kim Jong Un, in his 20s, is trying to justify his reign by attempting to look like his grandfather. There are rumors that Kim Jong Un underwent plastic surgery to look like Kim Il Sung. And his first public speech is intended to give an impression of the reincarnation of his grandfather to its audience. Whatever his attempts are, it's destined to fail...

Sunday's extravaganza ended with a spectacular fireworks and light show on the bank of the capital's broad Taedong River. Thousands gathered to watch the money disappear into thin air.

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