Kim’s horseback ride spurs policy shift speculation

SEOUL (AFP) – New pictures of Kim Jong-un riding a white horse through a winter landscape to the summit of Mount Paektu, a sacred peak for North Koreans, have fuelled speculation that the young leader may be set for a major policy announcement.

The images released by the official KCNA news agency were accompanied by a gushing text, that noted the “noble glitters” in Kim’s eyes, and labelled his snowy, horseback ride “a great event of weighty importance” for the nation.

Accompanying officials were left convinced that “there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution,” the agency said.

Analysts said the hike may signal a new policy direction for the North. “In the past, Kim has climbed Mount Paektu ahead of major political decisions,” said Shin Beom-chul, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un rides a white horse to climb Mount Paektu in North Korea. PHOTO: AP

Kim hiked to the peak in December 2017 before launching diplomatic overtures that led to his first ever summit with United States (US) President Donald Trump.

But negotiations have been gridlocked since a second summit between Kim and Trump collapsed in February.

The sight of North Korean leaders riding white horses across snow-capped peaks – and in particular Mount Paektu – has been a dominant theme of past photos, posters and portraits of Kim’s father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung.

According to B R Myers, a professor at Dongseo University in South Korea, the images present an imperial motif of a leader protecting the cultural and ideological purity of the nation from corrupt, outside forces.