Sports at center of Kim Jong-Un’s new communication strategy at home and abroad

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Lee Jong-HeonEast-Asia-Intel.com

SEOUL — The regime of North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un has turned to sports as the tool to shape his image of a genial and friendly leader at home and mend fences with South Korea and the United States, officials and analysts here say.

Kim Jong-Un and Dennis Rodman enjoy an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang.  /Jason Mojica/AP
Kim Jong-Un and Dennis Rodman enjoy an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang. /Jason Mojica/AP

The initiatives range from inviting former NBA start Dennis Rodman to hosting international games and to building sports facilities. The shift in emphasis became clearly visible in August when Kim focused his public activities on sports-related events.

“Out of 18 public activities Kim made in August, eight were related to sports,” Seoul’s Unification Ministry official said. They included inspection tours of construction sites of a massive ski resort, a riding club and a swimming pool, among others.

The Aug. 28 premier soccer match finals for Torch Cup staged in Pyongyang was one of the biggest gatherings of top leaders and was attended by Kim Jong-Un and senior military officials and ruling elite members. During the soccer meeting, a group of new loyalists were spotted such as Ri Yong-Gil, the new chief of the General Staff of the People’s Army.

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