Dear Leader is always worthy of note. Lots and lots of notes.


This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 22, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the January 8 fishery station of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) at an undisclosed place in North Korea. AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS REPUBLIC OF KOREA

Kim Jong Un likes to look at things. He’s not the paper-pushing type of leader. He’s the kind to get out there, mix it up, tour the buildings and ships and fields of North Korea. And he’s loose with the advice.

There he is, touring a hospital room while a patient receives treatment, dispensing instruction. There he is, clutching a pair of binoculars, tutoring soldiers. And there he is, scrutinizing a conveyor belt of cookies, offering observations. Kim Jong Un must say a lot of profound things. Because the people around him are constantly taking notes.

North Korea’s Central News Agency released a fresh batch of Kim Jong Un pics on Thursday, and in just about every one, the Dear Leader is surrounded by people taking notes. In an observation first plucked by the BBC, Kim oversees women launching multiple rockets. He dispenses sage wisdom to a pilot. And he observes a fishery station. It’s unclear what, specifically, Kim Jong Un is telling everyone. But it seems to be constantly worthy of note.


This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 22, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) inspecting the January 8 fishery station of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) at undisclosed place in North Korea. AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS REPUBLIC OF KOREA

As always, an insatiable curiosity surrounds North Korea, the most isolated country in the world. There are few countries where such pictures would be so scrutinized. And with President Obama’s Friday trip to South Korea, even more attention has focused on its northern neighbor. Friday morning, Agence France-Presse reported that North Korea had “sealed a tunnel at its nuclear test site” and looks to be preparing for a fourth nuclear test. So maybe that’s why Kim Jong Un visited a “multiple-rocket launching drill” on Thursday and offered his know-how.

“As I always emphasize, it is necessary to root out formalism in training and thoroughly do away with a diagrammatic method and stylish practice,” he told the Korean Central News Agency. The report then says the leader informed his soldiers “to make it as a rule to conduct all exercises ranging from mobility to deployment, aiming and firing under the simulated conditions of an actual war to suit their combat duty.”


This picture released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 21, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) inspecting an aquarium as he visits the Songdowon international children’s camp in Kangwon province in North Korea. AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS REPUBLIC OF KOREA

James Grayson, a professor at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC that the images are part of a broader campaign in North Korea to demonstrate Kim’s intellect and kindness. “It’s part of the image of the great leader offering benevolent guidance.” Every picture of note-taking is heading for wide dissemination in North Korea, says Grayson. “These are pictures that will be broadcast on television and shown in the state media, so those who are there want to be seen recording Kim Jong Un’s every word,” Grayson said, explaining that it’s unlikely Kim is truly an expert in every field of research from robotics to medicine to making cookies. “It’s important, however, that the apparatchiks that surround him are seen to be hanging on his every word.”


This undated picture released by North korea’s official Korean central News Agency (KCNA) on April 24, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) inspecting the multiple-rocket launching drill of women’s sub-units under Korean People’s Army (KPA) Unit 851 at undisclosed place in North Korea. AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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