Amid military leadership purges, threats of food shortages and nuclear threats, Kim Jong Un is reportedly starting to lose the loyalty of his country's public. Continuing political chaos in North Korea has led to signs of wavering allegiance to Kim’s leadership, and it will be difficult to reverse.
A new report by Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reports that criticism of Kim’s decision making and seemingly volatile leadership style is escalating as North Koreans become more comfortable criticizing the central government.
“Kim’s popularity among citizens has rapidly declined,” Daily NK reports, quoting a woman from South Pyongyan province, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “People say that, considering the fact that Kim has executed dozens of high-ranking officials within the few years since coming to power,’ there’s no hope left.’ ”
Last month, South Korean intelligence reported the latest purge of high-ranking military officials under Kim’s leadership. Hyon Yong Chol, the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, was allegedly executed for falling asleep during a high-level meeting that Kim attended. Following that, South Korean news site Chosun-Ilbo reported that So Hong Chan, the vice minister of the armed forces had also been purged from his position after failing to deliver on Kim's request to increase food rations for soldiers.
Instability at the top has planted a seed of doubt regarding the leadership capabilities of Kim, who inherited the position in December 2011 following the sudden death of his father and predecessor Kim Jong Il. “Officials in rural regions and security agents are far more inclined to air grievances more publicly regarding the leadership,” another unnamed source in North Korea’s North Pyongyan told Daily NK. “Not only residents but even cadres sneer when they see footage broadcast idolizing the leader. Many just say, ‘This sucks,’ and switch off the TV.”
Reports of this alleged behavior coincide with what North Korean analysts have also suspected about Kim’s tenure at the helm. “Internally, there does not seem to be any respect for Kim Jong Un within the core and middle levels of the North Korean leadership,” Michael Madden, a North Korea expert at Johns Hopkins University’s U.S.-Korea Institute, said, according to the Guardian.
In response, North Korea has taken measures to downplay Kim’s leadership overhauls and military purges. Last week, authorities began clamping down on chatter about Hyon’s execution in hopes of stopping rumors and avoiding the danger of “inciting chaos.”
“In a political lecture for citizens held this year, footage of Kim Jong Il declaring his son to be a successor ‘10 times superior’ to himself was incorporated,” the South Pyongyan woman said. “Many have mocked this, saying, ‘This superior figure is purging officials left and right? Hope is lost on him.’ ”