Photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse up North Korea’s most sacred mountain have been released by state news agency KCNA, triggering speculations that he is planning a “great operation”.
He can be seen riding up snow-covered Mt Paektu and KCNA said this march on horseback “is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution”.
“Having witnessed the great moments of his thinking atop Mt Paektu, all the officials accompanying him were convinced with overflowing emotion and joy that there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution,” Reuters quoted KCNA.
The mountain holds a special place in the country’s identity, according to BBC, and is feted as the birthplace of Kim Jong Un’s father. However, CNN points out that historians and scholars believe the story was fabricated for propaganda purposes.
Kim Jong Un has visited it before making major decisions — such as the 2013 execution of his uncle and his 2018 decision to enter into diplomacy with Seoul and Washington, according to The Associated Press. The North Korean leader had taken South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Mt Paektu last year.
What does Kim Jong Un’s ride signify?
“This is a statement, symbolic of defiance,” Joshua Pollack, a North Korea expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, told Reuters. “The pursuit of sanctions relief is over. Nothing is made explicit here, but it starts to set new expectations about the coming course of policy for 2020.”
The Reuters report also quoted experts as saying that much of the rhetoric in the KCNA report revolves around the economy. They also suspect North Korea may soon conduct a space launch.
Laura Bicker of BBC said:
There’s speculation that this time Kim could be rethinking his promise to refrain from testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. Talks with the US are currently at a stalemate and Donald Trump is a little distracted by other domestic and foreign affairs.
The North Korean leader may be using the brisk mountain air to consider ways of attracting the attention of the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, Twitter can’t help but associate Kim Jong Un to Game Of Thrones and Jon Snow.