Kim Jong Un pursuing the power of image as their politics key strategy


North Korea is one of the most isolated and censored societies on the planet. The state media of the country is known for controlling the people of its country by keeping a check on what content they consume daily. Kim Jong Un has been portrayed as increasingly both authoritative and popular over his decade in power with the power of the image to appear authoritative and popular among citizens.

Since 1948, three generations of the Kim family have been ruling the country with absolute authority and the regime has made use of the attentively crafted images to ensure their power. 

The people outside the country see the leader as a ruthless tyrant who only focuses his energy on developing the country’s nuclear weapons, even when the population of the country is starving. While North Korea’s tightly-controlled state media put forward the leader’s softer side which includes Kim caressing weeping orphans, being mobbed by gushing female soldiers, or smiling broadly on a mound of potatoes.

“The images that the regime chooses to disseminate and weave into Kim’s hagiography say a lot about how Kim envisions North Korea’s future and his place in it,” wrote Jung Pak, now US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, in a 2018 report before she took up her current post.

“Kim appears to want to reinforce the impression that he is young, vigorous, on the move — qualities that he attributes to his country as well,” Pak said in the Brookings Institution report.

Michael Madden, the fellow at the Stimson Center, says, the best way to win public support is to carefully craft the photographs and films as they are “a universal part of politics”, but Pyongyang’s propaganda had different motives.

“In North Korea, it is not a matter of being responsive to public opinion, but influencing how citizens view or regard the leadership.”

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