04/16/2012, 00.00
KOREA
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Kim Jong-un speaks (for the first time), greets South Koreans

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
The young dictator speaks at the centennial celebration of his grandfather's birth. He follows up his "greetings to our compatriots in South Korea and across the world who dedicate themselves to reunification and the prosperity of the nations" with the usual militaristic propaganda, adding however that North Koreans will "never again tighten their belts".

Seoul (AsiaNews) - In his first speech since coming to power, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un blended his father's threatening words with his grandfather's mannerism whilst showing an unexpected openness to the rest of the world. Speaking before crowds of soldiers parading in Pyongyang's main square, Kim the third said, "I express my greetings to our compatriots in South Korea and across the world who dedicate themselves to reunification and the prosperity of the nations".

At the same time, the young Kim warned his usual enemies, saying that its nuclear-armed enemies would not bully North Korea. The "era of enemies using atomic bombs to threaten and blackmail us is forever over," he said. "In order to realise our goal of building a socialist, strong and prosperous nation, we must first, second and third strengthen the people's army on all fronts," he added.

The speech was made during festivities honouring the 100th birthday of his late grandfather, Kim Il-sung, and the founding father of North Korea. The regime invested heavily in the special event in terms of time and money to assert the power and image of Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-il, after he died back in December.

From the regime point of view, the celebrations were marred however by the failure of its space rocket, which fell a few minutes into its launch.

The Unha-3 flop suggests that Pyongyang might be preparing a new nuclear test, like the one of 2008, which brought to an international humanitarian assistance.

Ruled by Kim Il-sung's militarist doctrine, North Korea is de facto run by generals. At present, "a power struggle is underway with the new dictator," sources in Korea told AsiaNews. The young Kim "is more open to dialogue than his military advisers. The latter know that with peace they would end up in prison."

Wearing a dark Mao suit, the young Kim has adopted a style favoured by his grandfather. On the balcony above Pyongyang's main square today, he laughed and joked freely with senior officials, and addressed the crowds directly.

By contrast, "Glory for the heroic soldiers of the Korea People's Army" is all his father Kim Jong-il managed to say in public in 17 years in power.

The son appears to have a more human touch. At the end of his speech, he alluded to the country's food supply problem (half of all North Koreans live on less than a dollar a day), when he said that the people should "never again [have to] tighten their belts".

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