An exceptionally odd North Korean propaganda video uncovered by South Korean media on Wednesday shows a group of female soldiers singing and dancing to entertain dictator Kim Jong-un.
The clip is apparently part of a very long “documentary” chronicling Kim’s eventful year in 2019.
I thought I’d get used to it by now but sometimes I can't get over the fact that this is such a weird country pic.twitter.com/gQqPzNkmh4
— Jeongmin Kim (@jeongminnkim) January 14, 2020
Perhaps the strangest feature of the video is the completely nonplussed expression on the face of the corpulent dictator, compared to the expressions of rapture on the faces of the women, some of them on the verge of weeping with joy. They are dancing for their lives in the presence of their god-king; he is wondering what he is looking at. Fortunately for the women, Kim perks up toward the end and gives them a smiling round of applause for their efforts.
The full documentary has several scenes of North Korean adults and children weeping with joy in the presence of their dictator, plus a great many scenes of Kim “inspecting just about everything, ranging from bowls of soup to bathroom sinks,” as Fox News put it.
The documentary also offered some clues to sharp-eyed observers about rising and falling stars in North Korean politics, notably including Kim’s suddenly ubiquitous female assistant Hyon Song-wol, a nonentity in 2018 who became a top official in 2019 and can be seen hovering around Kim in the propaganda video.
Analysts at NK News on Wednesday noted the propaganda film has strong militaristic overtones and makes numerous references to “hostile forces,” “invaders,” and foreign “enemies.” The section of the 2019 retrospective that covers Kim’s negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump depicts Kim as dismissing American proposals for economic development and expressing the “fury” of the North Korean people at U.S. sanctions.
A great deal of the film is devoted to extolling North Korea’s military achievements while portraying the U.S. and South Korea as dangerous predators kept at bay by Kim’s glorious leadership. Kim is quoted talking about “eternal power” and guaranteeing the security of North Korea for “thousands of years” to come.
Almost as strange as the dancing soldiers is a passage in the video that salutes Kim for supposedly enduring terrible hardships by constantly traveling across the country, while also displaying footage of the incredibly luxurious interior of his personal train.
“When he smiles and says, ‘Somehow, I’m uncomfortable when I enter my home,’ just how much passion burns in the hearts of the North Korean workers?” the narrator of the documentary asks about the ostensibly hard-traveling dictator.
“He says the train’s hard bed is better than a comfy bed, recalling thoughts of the father General riding the people’s train to the end down the revolutionary path until the last moment,” the narrator adds, while the screen displays a photo of previous dictator Kim Jong Il for the benefit of any North Koreans who might have forgotten who Kim Jong-un’s father was.
Getting a read on the notoriously reclusive and brutal totalitarian state is always difficult. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris on Thursday admitted he was pleasantly surprised when North Korea failed to deliver its threatened “Christmas gift” of a provocative missile launch in December.
“Washington was ready for any eventuality, and we were all glad that there was no ICBM test or nuclear test,” Harris said, stressing that North Korea’s decision not to launch a missile helped the U.S. and South Korea keep the door open to further negotiations.
On the other hand, Kim Jong-un recently stated he would not negotiate as long as the U.S. persists in its “hostile policy” of sanctions and threatened to roll out a new “strategic weapon” after abandoning the self-imposed moratorium on weapons testing he allegedly adopted when talks with the Trump administration began.
The true state of diplomacy with North Korea might remain unresolved until the U.S. concludes trade negotiations with North Korea’s patron China. U.S. and Chinese officials discussed relations with North Korea on Wednesday, with U.S. officials repeating their call for China to “fully implement U.N. Security Council sanctions” until denuclearization is achieved.