Kim Jong-un visits village rebuilt by N. Korean army that was destroyed by floods and typhoon winds

Posted on : 2020-09-16 18:27 KST Modified on : 2020-09-16 18:27 KST
Refusing foreign assistance, Pyongyang emphasizes internal strength in disaster recovery
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversees reconstruction work in Kangbuk Village, Kumchon County, North Hwanghae Province, which took heavy flood damage from typhoons. (KCNA/Yonhap News)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversees reconstruction work in Kangbuk Village, Kumchon County, North Hwanghae Province, which took heavy flood damage from typhoons. (KCNA/Yonhap News)

In its Sept. 15 edition, the Rodong Sinmun devoted its entire front page to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s “on-the-spot guidance” at Kangbuk Village, Kumchon County, North Hwanghae Province, where efforts to repair damage from flash floods and strong winds had just concluded. Devastated by Typhoon Bavi and heavy rain last month, the village was the first place to be rebuilt by the Korean People’s Army (KPA), as the North Korean military is known, on orders from Kim.

The Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim had “wondered if the village which looked so pitiful for its backwardness plus damage [from the] natural disaster could shake them off in such a short period, adding he felt as if [he were] facing a different world.” Kim also expressed his “great satisfaction,” the state-run newspaper said. Photographs printed in the paper show 50 buildings of either one or two stories that had been newly erected in Kangbuk Village.

“The People’s Army is made up of creators of all miracles [in] this land,” Kim was quoted as saying. “It is the greatest pride of our Party and the state and the biggest blessing for [myself] that we have such [a] powerful [and loyal] revolutionary army.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversees reconstruction work in Kangbuk Village, Kumchon County, North Hwanghae Province, which took heavy flood damage from typhoons. (KCNA/Yonhap News)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversees reconstruction work in Kangbuk Village, Kumchon County, North Hwanghae Province, which took heavy flood damage from typhoons. (KCNA/Yonhap News)

For the past month and a half, Kim has made five trips to areas damaged by the typhoons and floods, encouraging the recovery and underlining his attention to the public livelihood. Kim dispatched the KPA to repair damage and, when that proved inadequate, assembled a corps of 12,000 party members from Pyongyang who were assigned to the recovery work in Hamgyong Province. The Rodong Sinmun has been giving the story considerable attention, allotting half of the pages in its Tuesday edition to cheering on the recovery efforts.

There are several notable aspects of Kim Jong-un’s approach to “disaster recovery” politics. Most significantly, he initiated the recovery as soon as the damage occurred. Also notable is rebuilding damaged areas even better than before for use in public propaganda. Kim also rejected cooperation and assistance from the outside world — including South Korea — during the recovery, instead relying on a full mobilization of North Korea’s internal resources. In addition, Kim has placed a dramatic emphasis on the unity of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and the North Korean people. In an editorial, the Rodong Sinmun asserted that the WPK is “resolved and determined to create a miraculous opportunity for making good out of evil, even if that requires emptying the coffers of the state.”

Thus, Kim’s “disaster recovery politics” can be regarded as part of his crisis management, as he strives to hold the allegiance of a public that has been traumatized by the triple disaster of international sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic, and destructive typhoons.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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