They say that what goes up must come down, and that was just as true of spirits in the North Korean leadership as it was of the rocket itself, as North Korea’s long range missile exploded after just over a minute in the air. A grand gesture that was intended to ring in the Kim Jong Eun era ended in total failure.
The launch of the rocket was an essential symbolic gesture for North Korea to make as it moved to anoint Kim Jong Eun as undisputed leader of Party and state. That it was willing to throw away the ‘Leap Day Agreement’ concluded with the U.S. in Beijing on February 29th for the sake of this $800m rocket shows how keen North Korea was to create a symbolic event to help stabilize the Kim Jong Eun system.
The rocket launch was a gaudy accompaniment to Kim’s elevation to Party 1st Secretary and National Defense Commission 1st Chairman in recent days, and its failure was made worse by the fact that the authorities had invited a large group of foreign journalists to the country ahead of events planned for the centenary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, the largest in the country since 1989.
The surprisingly quick admission of the launch failure, coming just four hours later, showed how clearly the authorities appreciated that their propaganda planning had left them unable to keep the failure under wraps.
Professor Yoo Ho Yeol of Korea University said, “Given North Korea had already played up this rocket launch to the foreign media so much, the regime has judged that concealing it would only increase suspicion and become a burden for them.” Sogang University’s Professor Kim Young Soo agreed, saying, “They would find it pretty hard to sweep this under the carpet after having invited the foreign media to see it.”
“Kim Jong Eun’s image has taken a beating as a result of this failure,” Professor Yoo went on. “It is a glitch in his plans to elevate events for Kim Il Sung’s birthday.”
Cheong Seong Chang of the Sejong Institute commented, “The North Korean leadership is like a house in mourning.
However, from the leadership’s perspective they can’t afford not to go ahead with the process of transferring power to Kim Jong Eun and the events that were planned for the centenary of Kim Il Sung’s birth."
The experts also warned that now the rocket has failed, the authorities may feel the need to turn to back-up plans. Professor Yun Deok Min of the Korean National Diplomatic Academy predicted, “The nuclear test will go ahead as planned and provocations aimed at South Korea are also possible.”
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