The positive response shown by North Korean citizens to a speech given this month in Pyongyang by South Korean president Moon Jae-in has alarmed security officials in the North, who now fear a loss of prestige by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sources in the country say.
Moon’s seven-minute speech before an audience of 150,000 on September 19 touched on themes popular with the crowd: the shared ethnic heritage of Koreans in both countries, the desire for peace and unification, and North Korea’s prosperity.
Speaking to RFA’s Korean Service, a source in Pyongyang said that Moon’s speech drew an enthusiastic response.
“People are now expressing positive opinions about the address given by the South Korean president to Pyongyang residents during the North-South Summit,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Some are even saying that it reminded them of the day when the Supreme Leader Kim Il Sung gave a triumphant speech in Pyongyang after we gained independence,” he said, referring to the founding of the North Korean state following Japan’s defeat in the Second World War.
“I was deeply moved, and almost in tears, during [Moon’s] speech when he told us: ‘You have shown the unshakeable will to stand on your own while holding on to your national pride.’ “
“I was brought up to see South Korea as our enemy,” he said. “But when I saw the South Korean president speak so sincerely and hold hands with Kim Jong Un with smiles on his face, I could feel the affection of us having the same ethnic roots.”
Public opinion monitored
The Pyongyang citizens who heard Moon speak were all carefully selected to attend the speech, which was designated a No. 1 event because North Korean national leader Kim Jong Un was also scheduled to attend, RFA’s source said.
“But since they later told their close family members and friends that they were able to feel the sincerity of the South Korean president’s speech, the North Korean authorities are concerned about this,” he said.
North Korea’s State Security Department now worries that public sentiment in Pyongyang may be favoring the South Korean president over Kim Jong Un, he said.
“So they have ordered the heads of people’s units in each district to monitor public opinion.”
Also speaking to RFA, a source in North Pyongan province, bordering China, said that he had recently spent an entire day talking with relatives from Pyongyang about South Korea’s president and the speech that he gave.
“The flow of the No. 1 event, including the cheering for the South Korean president’s speech, had all been planned beforehand,” RFA’s source said.
“But many of those who participated say that they applauded from their heart after hearing [Moon’s] humble and heartfelt speech,” he said.
Reported by Hyemin Son for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.