North Korea will distribute badges featuring leader Kim Jong Un’s face to loyal government officials to mark the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party’s rise to power in the country, according to a report Wednesday. Badges bearing images of North Korean leaders are a tradition in North Korea, though this is the first time Kim Jong Un’s face would be placed in the same portrait badge as his father, Kim Jong Il, and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.
“Three thousand badges will be disseminated to top-level party officials and cadres of the Party Youth before the anniversary, symbolizing Kim’s trust in them,” a source told South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, according to the Korea Times.
Kim Jong Un’s face previously adorned a badge distributed to top party officials, in 2012. But his inclusion on the same badge as his predecessors was evidence he is now seen as their equal, a North Korea expert told the Korea Times. “The new badge signifies that Kim Jong Un is now acknowledged as an equal leader to the previous ones, not a mere successor,” said World North Korea Research Center head Ahn Chan Il.
— NorthKoreaRealTime (@BuckTurgidson79) July 8, 2015
While the newly produced badges may signify Kim Jong Un’s power within his own party, there was increasing evidence this week the North Korean people were wary of his harsh and violent tactics, which have included frequent government purges and public executions. Approximately 1,400 North Koreans were publicly executed from 2000 to 2013, the Guardian reported.
Earlier this week, a group of three North Korean sailors defected to South Korea after their boat drifted into South Korean waters, the New York Times reported. And last month, a North Korean scientist who claimed to have evidence that North Korea tested chemical weapons on its own people defected to Finland.
To prevent future defections, Kim Jong Un’s regime purportedly ordered increased surveillance of government officials and workers who operate overseas. Some representatives were called back to North Korea to explain why the wave of defections has occurred.