North Korea’s Kim Jong Un gets angry at the weather guys

Kim Jong Un gives "field guidance" to North Korea's national hydro-meteorological service. (Rodong Sinmun)
Kim Jong Un gives "field guidance" to North Korea's national hydro-meteorological service. (Rodong Sinmun)

Another week, another bit of absurdity from the world's most isolated state. A report in the Rodong Sinmun, a state-run newspaper, shows North Korea's porky despot giving "field guidance" to the national hydro-meteorological service. Although it's written in awkward communist jargon, the report makes clear that Kim Jong Un was not pleased.

He said that there are many incorrect forecasts as the meteorological observation has not been put on a modern and scientific basis... "It is necessary to fundamentally improve the work of the Hydro-meteorological Service in order to scientifically clarify meteorological and climatic conditions and provide accurate data for weather forecast and meteorological and climatic information required by various fields of national economy in good time", he noted.

It's hilarious imagining him actually saying any of this — though, given the extent to which Kim's attendants note every word he speaks, Rodong Sinmun has no excuse for inaccuracy. Kim is of course known for his penchant to call on various unremarkable state installations and look at things.

Kim Jong Un is known for his penchant to call on various unremarkable state installations. (Rodong Sinmun)
Kim Jong Un is known for his penchant to call on various unremarkable state installations. (Rodong Sinmun)

Usually, the message from these visits is something quite anodyne and benign, punctuated by vociferous applause from his subjects. But in photos provided by Rodong Sinmun, the strain on the faces of those being lectured is quite evident.

(Rodong Sinmun)
Public scoldings are nothing new for Kim Jong Un. (Rodong Sinmun)

Last month, North Korea experienced its worst spring drought in three decades, which, according to state media, damaged thousands of acres of crops. The grain harvest this year is expected to be low. As it is, the country faces chronic food shortages, and the amount of basic staples doled out in state-administered rations has reportedly dipped. In this context, it's not surprising that the well-fed Kim could turn his weather forecasters into unfortunate scapegoats.

Public scoldings are nothing new in North Korea. The world watched in fascination late last year when Kim ostracized his influential uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and had him summarily executed. A flurry of state dispatches accused Jang of all sorts of crimes, including not clapping enthusiastically enough at a ceremony marking Kim's ascension to power.

In a slightly more comic display, the North Korean regime lambasted the nation's soccer team four years ago after the side's woeful performance at the World Cup in South Africa. Hundreds of officials grilled the team in a six-hour public meeting, chastising the athletes for failing in their "ideological struggle" on the field. The team's coach was reportedly kicked out of the communist party and consigned to work as a builder. Luckily, the North Koreans have not qualified for the tournament this year.

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
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