Decoding Kim Jong Un’s Latest Show of Strength

Decoding Kim Jong Un’s Latest Show of Strength
A rally to celebrate the election of Kim Jong Un as general secretary of the Workers’ Party, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Jon Chol Jin).

North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party has had a busy start to the year. Earlier this month, the Eighth Party Congress was held in the capital, Pyongyang: Eight days of meetings, including a 9-hour work report read out by leader Kim Jong Un himself. Just a couple days after those sessions wrapped up, Kim oversaw a celebratory military parade, the second one since October, featuring a new missile described by state media as the “world’s most powerful weapon.” New analysis of satellite imagery by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute suggests Pyongyang could be preparing for a new test of a submarine-launched missile.

According to Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow with the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, these showy events, filled with pomp and fanfare, are designed to project strength at a time when North Korea’s economy is reeling from a “triple whammy” of sanctions, COVID-19 and consecutive natural disasters. She joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman on the Trend Lines podcast this week to break down the multilayered messaging from the recent party congress and what to expect from North Korea in the coming year. Click here to read a partial transcript of the interview.


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Trend Lines is edited by Peter Dörrie, a freelance journalist and analyst focusing on security and resource politics in Africa. You can follow him on Twitter at @peterdoerrie.

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