Kim Jong-il changes travel companions
July 05, 2005 For the last six months, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, at least in his public duties, appears to have changed his traveling companions.
According to an analysis by the JoongAng Ilbo’s Unification Research Institute on North Korean media reports, Mr. Kim now prefers the company of government technocrats more often than his once usual coterie of military officials.
The research institute said yesterday it has analyzed the state-run newspaper Rodong Shinmun’s coverage of Mr. Kim’s public appearances during the first half of this year. While Mr. Kim’s activities mainly include visits to military bases as they have done in previous years, Pyongyang’s cabinet members and Workers’ Party officials are accompanying him more often than military leaders.
Mr. Kim started his public rounds with factory visits in January. He traveled to two machine manufacturing plants and a steel factory in January over a three-day period. Since assuming the leadership of the communist regime in 1994, Mr. Kim has normally started his year by paying visits to military installations and not economic centers, the analysis said.
The Rodong Shinmun indicated Mr. Kim made 42 public appearances in the first half of the year, down by six from the same period last year. In comparison to the first half in 2002, the number of Mr. Kim’s public appearances was down by 23.
This year, 19 North Korean officials were named in Rodong Shinmun articles as accompanying Mr. Kim at public events. Among them, 11 were from the Workers’ Party while seven were from the military. Kim Ki-nam, a senior Workers’ Party official who led North Korean representatives at the fifth anniversary celebration in Pyongyang for the June 15 inter-Korean summit, accompanied Mr. Kim most often, attending 12 events.
A former chief editor of the Rodong Shinmun, Kim Ki-nam is a veteran propaganda official.
Pak Pong-ju, North Korea’s prime minister, is also accompanying Mr. Kim more, according to the analysis. Mr. Pak went along on five occasions last year. This year he has already accompanied Mr. Kim seven times.
In contrast, North Korean People’s Army leaders who used to accompany Mr. Kim at many events are not doing so as often.
Hyon Chol-hae, Pak Jae-gyong and Ri Myong-su, all military leaders, went with Mr. Kim on an average of 43 times annually from 2001 to 2004. But this year, they have accompanied Mr. Kim only about 10 times.
During the first six months of this year, 22 of Mr. Kim’s public appearances were associated with military events and tours of bases. His visits to military bases were concentrated after May when the United States deployed stealth aircraft to South Korea.
Mr. Kim spent more time in attending cultural events this year. He attended nine cultural events including performances by visiting musicians from China and Russia.
by Oh Young-hwan