North Korea released a series of photos yesterday. The images feature leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse to a “sacred” mountain—one he has often climbed before making key decisions. Kim reportedly vowed to overcome U.S.-led sanctions he says both pain and infuriate his people.
The photos showed Kim riding on horseback up snow-covered Mount Paektu. The mountain, the highest point on the Korean Peninsula, is sacred to North Koreans. Both it and the white horse are symbols associated with the Kim dynasty.
In 2018, Kim visited Mount Paektu before entering into diplomacy with South Korea and the United States.
North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released the photos days after North Korea’s first nuclear talks with the United States in more than seven months fell apart. “He, sitting on the horseback atop Mt Paektu, recollected with deep emotion the road of arduous struggle he covered for the great cause of building the most powerful country with faith and will as firm as Mt. Paektu,” KCNA says.
The white horse is a propaganda symbol for the Kim family, which has ruled North Korea for seven decades. State media have occasionally shown Kim, his sister, and his father riding white horses. The symbolism goes back to Kim Il Sung, who according to the North’s official story rode a white horse while fighting Japanese colonial rulers.
“The situation of the country is difficult owing to the ceaseless sanctions and pressure by the hostile forces, and there are many hardships and trials facing us,” Kim says. “But our people grew stronger through the trials and found their own way of development and learned how to always win in the face of trials.”
North Korea has been slapped with 11 rounds of sanctions since 2006. The sanctions have been toughened since 2016, when Kim began conducting a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests. They include a full ban on key exports such as coal, textiles, and seafood and a significant curtailing of oil imports.
South Korean media believes that Kim may be considering a new plan in his dealings with the United States—a plan to pressure the United States into changing its nuclear diplomacy policies.
(North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a white horse to climb Mount Paektu, North Korea. Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)