TOKYO — Even by North Korean standards the hoopla and media coverage around the test firing of the country’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date was impressive — at times seeming to take cues from Hollywood blockbusters.
But the coverage didn’t stop there. A 15-minute segment featuring the launch on North Korean state television included a dramatic, highly stylized, Michael Bay-esque intro of the North Korean leader overseeing the action. State television aired it at least twice on Friday afternoon.
There was a slow-motion walking. Slow-motion watch-checking and pointing. Slow-motion removal of sunglasses. Glamour shots of the Hwasong-17. Then a 10-second countdown to the launch.
North Korea is no stranger to over-the-top production, but the video underscores how important the occasion is for Kim: Launching the Hwasong-17 is a major step for the country as it works to show how serious it is in developing its nuclear deterrent to defend itself in case of nuclear war.
Missile tests serve many purposes, including sending a strong political message domestically that Kim, who is in his 10th year of power, is looking after his people. But that’s a message that is becoming increasingly more difficult to send, given the deteriorating economy caused by a strict, self-imposed coronavirus border lockdown that has strained food supplies and cash flow amid sustained economic sanctions.
In February, a North Korean state media documentary made a rare mention of the country’s “food crisis,” a glimpse into the realities on the ground.
Friday’s TV segment emphasized that the Hwasong-17 flew higher and farther than any of its previous missiles, and landed exactly where the leaders wanted it to.
“According to respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, this was another miraculous victory for the safety of our motherland and eternal well-being of all descendants, despite all kinds of difficulties and hardships,” the television announcer said.