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North Korea’s new Kim Jong Un solo badge is significant

North Korea’s Korean Central TV broadcast news of the second day of the Eighth Party Central Committee’s 10th Plenary Session on June 30, showing party officials attending the session wearing a Kim Jong Un portrait badge on their left chests.


North Korea is a hereditary dictatorship based primarily on the manipulation and idolization of symbols. Therefore, portraits and badges of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are core symbols that are constantly present in people’s lives, at work and at home (portraits) and on clothing (badges).

However, for the first time it has been confirmed that Kim Jong Un’s solo badge has replaced a badge with portraits of both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il (known as the “double portrait”). This is no small event. In short, Kim Jong Un has openly revealed his intention to “break away from previous generations and stand completely on his own,” a direction he has been cautiously pursuing for some time.

Key Developments

Since taking power, Kim Jong Un has outwardly emphasized the Baekdu bloodline succession by emulating Kim Il Sung (including physique, dress, and speeches) to supplement his legitimacy. Behind the scenes, however, he has shown tendencies to break away from Kim Jong Il by purging designated protectors such as Ri Yong-ho and Jang Song-thaek, accompanying his wife and daughter to public events, normalizing party organizations, and recklessly developing nuclear weapons. Now he’s gone further and broken with both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Notably, this year North Korea has focused more on overtly promoting Kim Jong Un by distinguishing him from previous generations. Notable examples include: ①declaration of the “two-state narrative”; ②reconstruction and relocation of the Party’s Central Cadre School with the reintroduction of Marx-Lenin and the installation of Kim Jong Un’s portrait; ③reduction of events related to Kim Il Sung; and, ④distribution of Kim Jong Un badges.

First, the two-state narrative is a Copernican revolution that completely negates the Kim Il Sung-Kim Jong Il line and changes North Korea’s 79-year strategy toward South Korea from cooperative/forcible reunification to hostile/forcible incorporation. The destruction of the Three Charters of National Reunification Monument and the recent construction of barriers along the Military Demarcation Line are symbolic actions of this change.

Second, in February 2020, North Korea disbanded the party committee of the Kim Il Sung Higher Party School following a review of corruption-related incidents at an expanded meeting of the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party. Finally, in 2021, the regime changed the name of the school to the Party Central Cadre School. In May of this year, the school was rebuilt and relocated, bringing back portraits of Marx and Lenin (which had disappeared since the Sixth Party Congress in 1980, when Juche was officially adopted as the guiding ideology) and placing Kim Jong Un’s portrait alongside those of his predecessors.

The return of the Marx-Lenin portraits shows Kim’s determination to compete not only with the Juche ideology of his predecessors but also with orthodox communism. Meanwhile, hanging portraits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un together is a measure to impress upon his people that he has now reached the same level as his predecessors. It could also be an attempt to show that Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are supporting actors and Kim Jong Un is the leading actor.

Third, North Korea has canceled or scaled back events associated with Kim Il Sung this year. In February, the regime did not hold meetings to review the central government reports on the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the program to model the whole society on Kim Il Sungism and the 60th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s announcement of the “Theses on the Socialist Rural Question in Our Country,” which were supposed to be milestone years. The name of the 112th birthday celebration of Kim Il Sung was changed from “Sunflower Day” to “April 15.”

Fourth, the 10th Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee was an important occasion to fully establish the two-state narrative presented by Kim Jong Un at the end of last year’s plenary session (including the establishment of new borders and the revision of previous policies emphasizing the nation and reunification). Wearing Kim Jong Un’s solo badge at this time implies the intention to publicly declare to the domestic and foreign audiences that from now on it is no longer the era of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, but the beginning of Kim Jong Un’s “era of independence.”


In his 13th year in power, Kim Jong Un continues to take steps to stand alone (positioning himself as the country’s “New Sun”). While this is fundamentally based on the two-state narrative when considering domestic, inter-Korean, and international factors, the “de facto alliance treaty” that resulted from two summits with Russian President Vladimir Putin may have boosted Kim’s confidence.

Going forward, I would expect North Korea to reinforce the idolization of Kim Jong Un by expanding the distribution of his portraits and other idolization objects, and by declaring his birthday a national holiday. The regime is likely to emphasize and propagate Kim Jong Un as an outstanding ideological theorist and global leader who surpasses his predecessors through the two-state narrative, the people-first policy, and the formalization and dissemination of the new Five Major Ideas of Party Construction (political, organizational, ideological, disciplinary, and work style building).

To respond to the North Korean state’s propaganda efforts, we should gradually bring down the curtain on Kim Jong Un’s 21st century “Truman Show” by informing the North Korean people and the international community about the secrets of Kim Jong Un’s birth and his inhumane rule through both online and offline channels.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

July 03, 2024 at 08:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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