Characteristics of Kim Jong-un’s leadership: analyzing the tone of official North Korean media

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This paper describes the characteristics of Kim Jong-un’s leadership primarily through the analysis of the tone observed in Rodong Sinmun, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). It has described five characteristics of the Kim Jong-un administration. The first characteristic is preference for fast-paced action. While there are considerable overlaps with previous studies, it is possible to clearly identify aspects that are different from the Kim Jong-il administration. The second characteristic is Kim Jong-un’s tendency toward pragmatism. He has repeatedly criticized “formalism” during his field inspections. Third, a new tendency to place greater importance on the policy-making process has become apparent. In addition to the plenary sessions of the Central Committee, meetings of the WPK Politburo Presidium, and Central Military Commission of the WPK are now convened, albeit irregularly. Fourth, obsession with certain specific issues is also characteristic of Kim Jong-un. His areas of concern are apparent from his works and from reports on his activities. These include science and technology, education, children, households, and families, the ilkun [executive staffs], buildings, vehicles, the air force, physical education, the Internet, and diversification of foreign trade. Lastly, the shift away from Songun is evident. The Kim Jong-un has increasingly distanced itself from the army-first Songun politics that symbolized the Kim Jong-il period. Kim Jong-un no longer mentions Songun. The National Defence Commission, which was the command center for the Songun system, was disbanded by an amendment to the Constitution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-64
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Contemporary East Asia Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 2


  • DPRK
  • Kim Jong-un
  • North Korea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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