Kim Jong-un in a Putinesque horse ride
Let us not think too deeply about this one. Kim Jong-un did a photo shoot on a horse.
The North Korean dictator rode the white steed through snowy fields, galloping between dusted trees, pausing for an aw-shucks-I’m-on-a-horse smile at the camera. His servants in the state media said on Wednesday that his eyes “were full of noble glitters”.
While Kim has no shortage of obviously posed propaganda photos, “world leaders on horseback” has been a very special genre at least since Vladimir Putin’s famous bare-chested entry in 2009. This doesn’t come along every day.
The geopolitical impact of the news was limited. Unless, that is, you trust the North Korean state media, which called Kim’s horseback ride up Mount Baekdu “a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution”.
Mount Baekdu is considered a sacred mountain laden with symbolism, the mythical birthplace of the Koreans. A volcano that straddles the Chinese and North Korean border — the Chinese call it Changbaishan — it is a central setting for North Korean propaganda, a place where soldiers are sent on pilgrimages to swear loyalty to their leader.
North Korea insists that Kim’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, was born in a log cabin there, despite proof that he was born elsewhere.
In the past, Kim has visited Mount Baekdu before making major decisions, giving rise to speculation that this latest trek could portend a shift in policy towards the US. An attempt to revive denuclearisation talks between the two countries broke down this month.
“Having witnessed the great moments of his thinking atop Mount 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,” reported the North Korean state news agency, which spells Baekdu that way.
Though Kim chose not to go full Putin, keeping his torso covered with a parka in the cold, he is part of a somewhat exclusive club of current world leaders to have been photographed on a horse. (A horseback photo of Kim from 2012 suggests that he has grown into the role.)