Kim applauded the communists for this “success” but said that Party officials had “undertaken to perform too many tasks and have taken too great pains” this year.
“They would say that defending their country, people and revolution is a task inherent to the People’s Army, but the pains they have taken are too great,” Kim said. “This is why I feel deep regret for them, and I feel pain in my heart as they are not all here at this glorious night with us.”
During the state television broadcast of the speech, South Korean media reported, Kim Jong-un paused his speech several times to wipe tears from his eyes.
Elsewhere in the speech, Kim sent regards to South Korea, wishing them well in their fight to eliminate the coronavirus threat. He nonetheless promised he would never dismantle North Korea’s “war deterrent,” a term commonly used in North Korea to refer to nuclear weapons, and that the nation must remain on alert for foreign threats. While paused with an armistice in 1953, the Korean War never officially ended, meaning North Korea remains at war with South Korea and America.
North Korea observers told the
Korea Times that the tenor of Kim’s speech, particularly the displays of guilt and failure, were a rare sight in the country.
“It is important to look at why he has come to shed tears at such an occasion,” one expert, director of the North Korea division at the Korean Institute for National Unification Hong Min,
told the Korea Times. “Underneath his message, one can sense that Kim is feeling a lot of pressure on his leadership. During the speech, he used terms like ‘grave challenges,’ ‘countless ordeals’ and ‘disasters unprecedented in history.’ This shows that he is having a really hard time governing.”
Kim has expressed remorse repeatedly this year for various failings of his regime. In July, Kim reprimanded the officials in charge of the construction of the Pyongyang General Hospital, whose construction was announced after the coronavirus pandemic began, for “serious problems” in funding the project.
“After hearing a detailed report on the overall situation of the construction from the construction coordination commission on the spot, he pointed out serious problems in economic organization for the construction,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the regime’s newswire service,
reported. “He said that the construction coordination commission is organizing economy in a careless manner with no budget for the construction properly set up, yet.”
Kim in particular condemned officials caught asking civilians for money to build the hospital. KCNA claimed Kim “”severely rebuked it [Party leadership] for burdening the people by encouraging all kinds of ‘assistance.'”
In August, Kim warned that his economic plan for the nation had failed to produce the outcomes he was hoping for.
“Planned attainment of the goals for improving the national economy have been seriously delayed and the people’s living standard has not been improved remarkably,” Kim
said at a meeting of North Korea’s Central Committee.
General Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), said in an interview in September that the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border between North and South Korea, had become significantly more peaceful throughout the past year, in part because Kim had redirected his attention to managing several crises.
“With COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus], that has accelerated the effects of sanctions on North Korea,” Abrams
told the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “There’s been some bumps and bruises along the way but, in general, I’d say North Korea is abiding by the comprehensive military agreement from September 2018. Compared to previous years, the reduction in tension is palpable, it’s identifiable, and you can see it.”
Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.