The dictator wept as he apologised to the nation for its economic shortcomings and admitted he had been unable to repay the trust of the people. Addressing crowds at the floodlit parade, which featured goose-stepping troops, tanks, rocket launchers and North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile, Kim acknowledged “tremendous challenges” posed by the coronavirus pandemic and US-led international sanctions over his nuclear and missile programs.
He said: “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.
“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.
“I am ashamed that I have never been able to repay you properly for your enormous trust.
“My efforts and devotion were not sufficient to bring our people out of difficult livelihoods.”
But some North Koreans were dismissive of the parade and rejected Kim’s apparent show of contrition with some questioning why a proud country would stage “a sneaky military parade in the middle of the night”.
One Pyongyang resident told Radio Free Asia: “The commemoration event began at midnight and ended at 3am, and the residents who attended the event were exhausted and dissatisfied as they arrived at home only when the morning sun rose.
“Since a month ago, residents have been preparing for the event in various districts of Pyongyang, but no one knew that the event would be held in the middle of the night.”
He continued: “There are more criticisms and ridicule for carrying out a sneaky military parade in the middle of the night.
“Until now, we boasted that our military power is the best in the world and introduced various new weapons, but all that meaning disappeared by holding the event in the middle of the night.
“People are mockingly saying that that this would be the first time in the world to have a military parade in the middle of the night.”
An official in North Hamgyong province said Kim’s speech had sparked mockery and disgust.
The official said: “In his speech following the military parade, the Highest Dignity was close to tears and admitted his inexperience.
“But the residents feel disgust as if they are watching a three-generation play, saying that they have endured hunger while hearing the lies of three generations of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un that they work for the people.
“The reason why we are poor is because of the supreme leadership’s refusal to and open up to maintain the dictatorship. What other reason is there?
“Some residents are mocking the highest dignity, saying how urgent the highest dignity would be to act with tears.
“After ignoring the livelihood of the resident and devoted only to the development of weapons, now he is worried about the crisis of the system. He must have very complicated feelings.”
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Greg Scarlatoiu of Human Rights in North Korea said Kim’s display was “crocodile tears” by a third-generation ruler who hasn’t made changes to the policies of his grandfather and father.
He said: “This is a different version of Kim Jong-un somehow trying to get closer to his grandfather, to emulate a leadership style and a cult of personality style that is closer to his grandfather.
“In actual terms, it means nothing as long as he does not reform, as long as he does not change fundamentally the system of North Korea.”