North Korea has issued its traditional New Year message to the people, telling them to act as human shields to protect the new leader.
North Korean state media issued a cheery New Year message to the people, exhorting them to "become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong-un unto death". (The Telegraph) Assuring the masses that their new leader is in fact identical to his recently deceased father, the message clearly emphasized that continuity of the great Kim dynasty takes precedence.
The issue of chronic food shortages, which leave the isolated communist nation negotiating over aid, was surprisingly not swept under the carpet but publicly addressed. Although the official statement stressed that North Korea is at the "epochal point of opening the gates of a thriving country” (New York Times), it acknowledged that food shortages are a burning issue.
The leadership avowed ‘‘Rather than offering a new policy, North Korea is sticking to its old policy line under the pretext of honoring the dying wishes of Kim Jong-il." Under the old policy addressing food shortages was way down the list after spending on the military and developing nuclear weapons. The country is currently on a propaganda spending spree, hanging portraits of the new leader in prominent positions for the admiration of the people. This is of course a vital component of ensuring the Kim personality cult remains in place under the unlikely figure of worship presented by Kim Jong-un.
The US was in the process of negotiating its first food aid plan for North Korea in three years, when news of the death of Kim Jong-il was announced. The isolated communist regime remains under sanctions, with aid seen as a bargaining tool in nuclear disarmament negotiations. Anti-North Korean activists sent instant noodles over the border on Sunday attached to balloons, but the food will only reach a few who may be too fearful of the authorities to claim it.
Whether the people of North Korea will be willing to transfer their mandatory admiration of the "Dear Leader" to his son, to the extent of acting as human shields, is not yet clear, as the youngster remains an unknown quantity. Then again they are unlikey to have any choice in the matter.