The North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun published an extensive library of photos of Kim Jong-un on Thursday scaling Mount Paektu, the highest peak on the Korean peninsula and a key historical and spiritual site for both North and South Koreans.
According to the newspaper, Kim traveled to the summit and toured a variety of “revolutionary” sites on horseback, navigated the heavy snowfall in the area to seek a rekindling of the “offensive spirit of Paektu.”
Rodong Sinmun‘s summary of his tour does not mention the United States, but warns that, “now that the rising generations emerge as the main force, new issues arise from the global political structure and social and class relations, and the imperialists and class enemies make a more frantic attempt to undermine the ideological, revolutionary and class positions of our Party.”
The tour hit the government propaganda outlet’s pages in the aftermath of a senior North Korean official declaring that Pyongyang would send Washington a “Christmas present,” but the nature of this gift depended on how conciliatory America would be to the communist regime.
“It is of remarkable historic significance that Kim Jong-un, the great leader of our revolution who opens up the period of a great leap for the development of the revolution,” Rodong Sinmun declared, “personally left the sacred trace in the revolutionary battle sites in Mt Paektu area, the source of the lifeline of the revolution and inexhaustible patriotism, through knee-high virgin snow.”
His tour, Kim reportedly said, was “a manifestation of the rock-firm faith and immutable will of the Korean people to carry forward the glorious revolutionary traditions, the immortal foundation of the revolution, as the eternal lifeline, add everlasting luster to it and thoroughly implement the revolutionary cause of Juche pioneered on Paektu.”
The images accompanying the report show a clunky Kim in a large coat riding a horse through the breathtaking terrain around Mount Paektu, warming himself with his team by a fire, and reaching the summit and its crater lake, Chon.
Mount Paetku is rich with mythological significance, considered the birthplace of the Korean people and the mountains to which Kim Il-sung, the founder of the Kim cult, fled during his battles with the Japanese that ended with him taking the reins of North Korea and imposing arguably the most brutal form of communism still in effect today. The North Korean regime claimed Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s predecessor and father, was born on the mountain.
Last year, in a gesture meant to symbolize Kim Jong-un’s willingness to thaw relations with the south, he toured the summit of Mount Paektu with leftist South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said that climbing the mountain was a lifelong dream.
The newspaper also affirmed the catchy slogan “Let us produce, study and live like the anti-Japanese guerrillas!” as a core command of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), Kim’s communist cult. Imperial Japan committed a host of human rights atrocities against Koreans and colonized Chinese during World War II that continues to be a point of contention in both Koreas. In the North, however, Kim Jong-un regularly uses his propaganda outlets to stoke resentment against the Japanese people and has continued testing short-range missiles that could reach Japan, even when limiting long-range tests that could threaten U.S. territories.
The South Korean news service Yonhap suggested that the combination of the Kim photo collections and essays by high-ranking officials urging North Koreans to embrace “self-reliance,” meaning a rejection of Western freedoms and acceptance of the hardships the non-elite endure under communism, were a sign that Pyongyang is not expecting any breakthroughs with the free world in the near future.
“As long as we have the revolutionary spirit of Mount Paekdu, and revolutionary spirit of self reliance, we can survive on our own and open the door for development and prosperity of our own style,” Yonhap quoted Vice Premier Kim Tok-hun as writing.
Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, also issued a statement Thursday carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s regime news service, claiming that the “waves of hatred of our people against the U.S. and the Americans … are getting higher and higher.”
Trump, present at the NATO summit in London this week, said the United States would use military force against North Korea “if we have to,” then referred to Kim Jong-un once again as “Rocket Man,” a nickname he gave him, Trump explained, because he “likes to send rockets up, doesn’t he?”