North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un shed tears Saturday at a military parade where the regime revealed a new ballistic missile, the Guardian reported.
The leader’s speech touched on the failures in political leadership that have led Pyongyang to an economic meltdown, as well as the external threats North Korea faces.
"Our people have placed trust, as high as the sky and as deep as the sea, in me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily," he said in tears, according to a translation of his comments in the Korea Times. "I am really sorry for that."
In recent months, Kim’s veneer of infallibility has collapsed in the face of the twin challenges of a failed economy and international pressure during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Kim’s leadership, the regime has permitted North Korean propaganda to display more "realistic" messaging, no longer claiming that Kim's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, had the power to levitate, or that Kim Jong Un could drive a car by age three and won yacht races by age nine. In recent months, Kim has even admitted to his failure to meet party expectations for the economy, and urged North Korean elites to hand over their pet dogs, a move some suspect was motivated by the country's sparse food supply.
Experts say Kim’s tears were indicative of the growing pressure on him from party elites.
"It is important to look at why he has come to shed tears at such an occasion," Hong Min, director of the North Korea division at the Korean Institute for National Unification, told the Korea Times. "Underneath his message, one can sense that Kim is feeling a lot of pressure on his leadership."
There is also concern, however, that as Kim’s posture weakens, the potential for violently lashing out against Washington increases. By displaying a long-range and lethal missile at the military parade, North Korea may be looking for better terms to negotiate with the West, using displays of force for leverage."We are standing by while they deploy very destabilizing capabilities," said Jeffrey Lewis, a scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.