Kim Jong-un Breaks Away

Kim Jong-un Breaks Away

( – Many people benefit from inheritance in one form or another. It might be a gift from a loved one or a title. In the case of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he was born into a legacy that demanded he succeed his father as leader of an entire country. Now, it looks like Jong-un is distancing himself from the legacy he’s expected to uphold.

An Empty Commemoration

April 15 is an important date for the North Koreans. It’s a day, known as the “Day of the Sun,” to celebrate the birthday of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. Citizens are taught to revere Il-sung’s lineage, including his son and previous leader Kim Jong-il. On this day, adults wear badges depicting one, or both, of the men.

Kim Jong-un was nowhere to be found on this important day.

The leader’s absence makes some believe that he’s attempting to distance himself from the family legacy. North Korean defector Ahn Chan-il is among those, saying that Kim’s trying to make a name for himself instead of solely relying on his dynasty’s reputation. Specifically, the cult of personality that surrounds the ruling bloodline is what Kim seems to want no part of anymore.

Breaking Away

Another tradition for Kim Jong-un is his annual visit to the Kumsusan Palace where he pays the “highest tribute” to the nation’s former two leaders. Again, this year Kim was absent. However, a flower basket with a banner with his name written on it was left at the temple.

Chan-il says these acts are a signal that the old times are over. The former soldier believes Jong-un is distancing himself from the legacies of the men who ruled before him. Chan-il thinks the leader wants to be known as “modern and competent” instead of a carbon copy of his ancestors.

Idolization and cult of personality are commonly affixed to North Korea’s leaders. According to Rachel Lee, former North Korea analyst for the US government, Kim Jong-un wants no part in it anymore. Instead, Kim wants to highlight his achievements in ways his subjects aren’t accustomed to. The first step is to distance himself from tradition.

North Korean leaders have portrayed themselves as mythical figures that are akin to divination. Even though some believe Kim Jong-un is breaking away from this, it’s hard to know for sure. Is he really trying to distance himself from his legacy, or is he creating a new one of his already-existing cult of personality?

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