SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been furious with his recent visits to industrial sites for his economic support at home, convincing outsiders of his gutting desire.
FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the county of Sindo in North Phyongan Province in this undated photo, published by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 30, 201
This month, the young leader visited industrial plants and special economic zones near the North Korean border with China and frequently denounced officials for delayed construction projects or smooth modernization of production lines, according to official media.
Kim, unlike his hermit father, openly defeated the managers on earlier economic excursions. Recent criticisms seem to be trying to boost economic development across the country – blaming bureaucrats where progress has slowed, experts say.
"Now that economic development is becoming a major party line, it has to show results but could have found that things are not so pretty on the ground," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.
"To the people inside, he wants to say that it is not the fault of themselves or of them, but that of the party boards, while encouraging ordinary citizens to work hard."
Kim may also be in the midst of nuclear talks with Washington to dispel the suspicion of denuclearization by emphasizing its pursuit of economic development.
Kim made a wide commitment at the Singapore Summit "to work towards a denuclearization" but no details on how or when he would dismantle the nuclear programs.
"While Kim tries to win the hearts of people, he wants to show that he is fully committed to the economy and that he is serious and defuses the suspicion of denuclearization," Lee Woo-young said. Professor at the University of North Korean Studies University in Seoul.
This week, Kim has insulted "shameless" and "miserable" executives at a power plant in northeastern Hamkyong province, "speechless," after discovering that only 70 percent of the construction work was completed years ago the official news agency KCNA.
Earlier this month, Kim cursed the managers of a textile factory in the border town of Siniiju for accusing the shortage of raw materials and money despite their poor work on the planned modernization of the factory, KCNA said.
The blame was part of Kim's efforts to emulate his beloved, affable, deceased grandfather, Kim Il Sung, to establish a link between the leader and humans, said Michael Madden, a North Korean leadership expert at Johns Hopkins University's 38 North website ,
"That some high-ranking officials are not so listless in their civil service duties, he has pointed out that they come only to the official opening events and are not responsible in the daily work," said Madden.
"This is similar to speeches and remarks by Kim Il Sung, who did the same."
Kim's recent tour to the northeast was the first full-fledged provincial visit in over a year, illustrating his shifting priorities, said Hong Min, a fellow at the Korean State Institute for National Association in Seoul.
Kim made 11 appearances this year at business events and three military inspections, mainly near the capital, Pyongyang. This is evident from a Reuters analysis of data from the South Korean Ministry of Reconstruction. Between January and July last year, Kim made 30 military trips and made 15 economic trips.
Large-scale travel to regional areas is usually scheduled three months ahead, after careful consideration of the location, and the decision for the border region encourages Kim's determination to strengthen economic cooperation with China, Hong said.
"Where he goes first is important, especially after a break, because there are different messages depending on the region," Hong said.
Kim has been traveling to China three times since May, sending a high-level delegation on a 10-day tour to key economic centers in China.
Shin Beom-chul, senior fellow at Asan Institute for Political Studies in Seoul, said Kim's goal could be to encourage Beijing to fight back against the US sanctions that have put pressure on the North Korean economy.
"Rather than treating China as an economic model, he will most likely seek to expand trade and breathe, hoping that China will ease its enforcement of sanctions."
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Jeongmin Kim. Edited by Lincoln Feast.