- By Thomas StackpoleThomas Stackpole is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. A native of Martha's Vineyard, MA, he received his bachelors degree in Political Theory from Bates College, and studied at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco. Previously, he covered climate and energy for Mother Jones and politics for the New Republic and MSN News, and once sailed from Maine to the Panama Canal, where he spent at least one afternoon playing coconut bocce on a desert island.
Kim Jong Un is back on the PR trail. The North Korean leader used his visit to the Chonji Lubricant Factory as a chance to show off what he bragged are the great technological and industrial leaps being made by his country. During the visit, which was reported by North Korean state media on Tuesday, Kim gave "field guidance" to the employees and praised their work, which he said yielded a product that previously had to be imported, as proof of the country’s progress. The industrial fruits of North Korea, his pitch went, are world class.
Touring both the factory floor and control rooms, Kim effused over the factory’s automation. Still, according to the state media report, he called for "steadily improving the technical specifications" to improve "international competitiveness."
He regretted though, that his father, the country’s former leader, didn’t survive to reap the rewards he sowed. "Visiting the factory established thanks to the undying patriotic feats of leader Kim Jong Il," he reportedly said, who "handed down to the younger generation as results of the hardships experienced by himself." Apparently filled with emotion, he continued, "I feel very sorry for failing to show him this modern splendid factory even once. This factory is a posthumous one."
Kim’s well-publicized inspections have notably deviated from the mostly military displays favored by his father, tending to conspicuously highlight the economic growth and development. (Not that he doesn’t, say, go joyriding on sweet retro submarines from time to time.) The oft-mocked shows of North Korea’s supposed prowess have paired Dadaist stunts — Maryana Naumova, the 15-year-old Russian athlete whom the Moscow Times called the "strongest girl on the planet in powerlifting," was recently flown over after writing Kim a letter — with schlock photo shoots.
That North Korea’s propaganda shop’s claims have mostly been met with derision from China to Hollywood may have solidly pissed off the country’s young dictator, but the attention proves that North Korea’s propaganda might be its one and only world-class export.
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.| Argument |