SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un returned from a month-long break from public viewing to inspect a major development project near the border with China, which he said epitomizes the “will iron “of his country to achieve prosperity in the face of international isolation and pressure.
The North Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s official, said on Tuesday that Kim expressed satisfaction during his visit to the city of Samjiyon at the progress of construction in an area that he called the “holy place of the sun.” Samjiyon stands at the foot of Mount Paektu, the heart of the North Korean founding myth that revolves around the Kim family and is described by official narratives as the spiritual center of the country’s revolution.
Turning Samjiyon into a “cultured model city” was one of the main focuses of a nationwide building campaign that North Korea had tried to complete in time for the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling party in October last year. But construction slowed amid pandemic border closures and international sanctions over Kim’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.
Kim has been struggling to get through what appears to be his most difficult period as leader with the country’s self-imposed COVID-19 lockdown, which has created a new shock for an economy hit by sanctions and decades of mismanagement.
KCNA said construction at Samjiyon could be completed by the end of this year, which could give Kim a much-needed trophy as he turns a decade in government since taking power following the death of his father in December. 2011.
Kim praised the workers for their “great loyalty, strong will and sweat” in going ahead with the project in the face of an “unfavorable environment” and said that Samjiyon would become a guide for rural development. He said the four years the country has spent developing Samjiyon, which involved the construction of thousands of houses and buildings, as well as new roads and an electrical grid, demonstrated its resolute unity and “iron will” to “bring prosperity to our country. way. ”KCNA said.
The visit was Kim’s first public appearance reported in state media since he gave a speech at a gun show in October. eleven.
“Claiming the success of Samjiyon’s development is politically important at this time because the Mount Paekdu region is central to North Korean mythology and the embellished story of the previous leader’s birth,” as Kim will soon commemorate 10 years since the death of his father. Leif said. Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
North Korea closely associates Paektu with Kim’s founding grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who, according to official accounts, saved the Korean peninsula with daring guerrilla raids against Japanese invaders from his base on the mountainsides before the end of the Second World War. Korea also claims, probably incorrectly, that Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, was born in Paektu.
Since becoming leader, Kim Jong Un has spent years consolidating his power by eliminating political rivals and family members while pushing for the development of nuclear weapons and missiles that he sees as his greatest guarantee of survival.
He began diplomacy with former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 as he tried to leverage his nuclear program to ease sanctions, but those talks were derailed in 2019 due to disagreements over a proposed U.S.-led sanctions withdrawal. in exchange for partial denuclearization by North Korea.