NORTH KOREA: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

RYAN LIPPERT WRITES- Only in North Korea would a national leader claim to have climbed the highest mountain in the country, take a picture (in which he looks neither tired nor properly equipped to accomplish such a task), and then describe such an accomplishment as if he just had a profound religious experience. Could this be yet another attempt to legitimize the regime by showing that the Supreme Leader has godlike attributes?

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un allegedly climbed Mount Paektu, the highest mountain in the Hermit Kingdom, and the supposed location of his father’s birth. The state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper quoted Kim as saying that “Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon and it is the way for carrying forward the revolutionary traditions of Paektu and giving steady continuity to the glorious Korean revolution.”

However, it is uncertain whether Kim climbed the mountain or not. Recent reports on his health suggest that he would have had some difficulty climbing Mount Paektu. In October, Kim had mysteriously disappeared, only to reappear weeks later, walking with a cane. Reports by the South Korean intelligence community stated that Kim most likely disappeared because he needed to have a cyst surgically removed, and that it may return if he does not lose weight and follow a less demanding schedule. This makes it surprising that Kim does not look very tired in any of the pictures in which he appears at the top of Mount Paektu. A man in his condition would be exhausted after pulling off such a physically demanding task.

The reports of Kim’s alleged mountain expedition, along with a report stating the North Korean government plans to teach children biographical facts about him that sound like the American Chuck Norris. “Facts” suggest that the state-run media is working hard to maintain the godlike image of their Supreme Leader. Kim allegedly won a race against the owner of a yacht company when he was nine years old. He also reportedly learned how to drive when he was three. These both seem like very extraordinary claims.

Could these be new attempts to show Kim Jong-un’s omnipotence and distract North Koreans from other developments that could lead more citizens to question Kim’s regime? It’s certainly possible.

One thing is certain. Either Kim Jong-un truly is superhuman, or he has the world’s best PR team.

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