In a rare apology for his failure in leading the country through difficult times during his speech last Saturday (Oct. 10), North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took off his glasses and cried.
Kim: "I am really sorry"
Speaking at the military parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, Kim set aside a huge part of the speech to messages carefully crafted to appear sympathising to the North Koreans, according to The Korea Times.
The speech was unusual for it took a different tack from previous occasions.
The 36-year-old leader said to the crowd in Pyongyang: "Our people have placed trust, as high as the sky and as deep as the sea, in me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily."
"I am really sorry for that," he said.
"Although I am entrusted with the important responsibility to lead this country upholding the cause of the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il thanks to the trust of all the people, my efforts and sincerity have not been sufficient enough to rid our people of the difficulties in their lives."
Some in the crowd were seen crying as well.
Kim denies any Covid-19 infections in North Korea
The isolated country has been dealing with "three hardships", as Kim mentioned, which are international sanctions, the Covid-19 outbreak and natural disasters that include typhoons and floods.
The North Korean economy, already hit hard by sanctions imposed for its nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes, faced further pressures from strict border closures aimed at preventing a Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
Kim, however, continued to maintain that the country does not have any Covid-19 cases, saying that he was thankful for that.
No one at the event was wearing a mask, including Kim and his senior officials, indicating either a lack of regard for the risk of Covid-19 transmission, or confidence in having defeated the pandemic in the country, according to Financial Times.
No masks or social distancing at North Korea's military parade among participants, leaders, or spectators. pic.twitter.com/GGsZcx7qWf— William Gallo (@GalloVOA) October 10, 2020
Signs of pressure on his leadership as country faces persistent challenges
Experts opined that the brief display of vulnerability by Kim indicates the pressure he has been facing on his leadership.
Hong Min, director of the North Korea division at the Korean Institute for National Unification, told The Korea Times that by using terms such as "grave challenges", "countless ordeals" and "disasters unprecedented in history", Kim is facing difficulties in governing.
Concerned that the North Korean people might be upset, he then decided to place such a strong emphasis on the people in his speech, Hong said.
Weight of expectations got to him
Shawn Ho, Associate Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, told Mothership that Kim might have felt that he has not lived up to the expectations in delivering some of his promises to the North Korean people who have had to deal with continuing hardships.
He added that another possible reason Kim was feeling emotional during the speech was the occasion itself.
As it was an occasion celebrating his grandfather's founding of the Workers' Party of Korea, which was subsequently led by his father, perhaps the weight of expectation he has to match up to them also got to him on that day, Ho opined.
Projecting a softer image
Ho added that Kim might have wanted to show more of his softer side not just to the North Koreans, but also to international audiences.
Addressing the world directly in his speech, Kim said: "Availing myself of this opportunity, I offer my heartfelt consolation to all those around the world who are still combating the disease caused by the malignant virus, and do hope from the bottom of my heart that health, happiness and laughter of all people would be guaranteed."
His speech, with the softer angles, might also have been meant to balance the hard power presented by the country, in the form of the new military weapons that were on display during the parade, Ho opined.
During the parade, the country had unveiled a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that was speculated to be able to reach the United States mainland.
In contrast with his tears as he talked about the hardships his people faced, Kim was shown to be smiling as the weapons were paraded.
Not the first time Kim has been portrayed as a caring leader in public
This was not the first time the leader has cried publicly -- Kim has previously shed tears at the wake for his late father Kim Jong Il.
The leader has also been previously shown to display empathy for the people.
Ho said that Kim has often been portrayed as a leader who cares for his people, citing videos released by the state media of him visiting ordinary North Korean people's homes and asking how they are doing, as well as visiting disaster-stricken areas to check on the damages.
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Top image via Korean Central Television