North Korea marked the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il Tuesday with vows to unite behind his son, Kim Jong Un, and a series of events to show the world that the regime has returned to business as usual despite the execution last week of Kim's once-powerful uncle.
“Both his father and his grandfather were known to have these purges as well as a means of gathering power and showing their might,” says Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies. “It was very public. It's a family member, and what message does that send but that no one is safe from this individual?”
The high-profile purge heightened questions over the stability of Kim's two-year-old leadership and cast doubt on the North's carefully cultivated image of total unity. Cruise says North Korea’s 25 million residents have known mostly poverty and hardship over the last two decades.
“He's new, he's perhaps being challenged,” Cruise says. “He has to gather power. He has to bring power to the fore, and how do you do this but incite fear?”
Cruise also pointed out that the United States can only take North Korea’s word that this execution happened, since the reclusive nation is one of the few places in the world with little outside access.
“Many in this country have acknowledged that we have no indication that this is not true, so we are going to assume that it's true,” Cruise says. “But of course, this is one of the largest propaganda machines in the world, and they are using that again to solidify power.”
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