Kim Jong-un has been filmed crying while appealing to North Korea’s women to have more children and raise them to love the authoritarian state.
The North Korean leader was spotted dabbing his eyes with a white handkerchief while addressing thousands of women gathered at a National Mothers Meeting in Pyongyang.
Many in the audience wept alongside him during the carefully choreographed event, the first of its kind to be held in 11 years amid rising concerns over a fall in the reclusive state’s birth rate.
“Stopping the decline in birthrates and providing good child care and education are all our family affairs that we should solve together with our mothers,” said Kim, who is speculated to have three children.
VIDEO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shed tears at the Fifth National Meeting of Mothers, held at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on Sunday, where he emphasized the need to give birth to more children and adhere to government child-raising standards. pic.twitter.com/W81ey7cwmQ
— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) December 4, 2023
While North Korea discloses few details about its population trends, South Korea’s government estimates its fertility rate has declined steadily for the past decade, which would alarm a regime heavily dependent on manual labour and military service.
South Korea’s unification ministry said Kim’s address marked the first time he had publicly acknowledged a fall in his country’s births.
According to the United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank, the North’s fertility rate has hovered around 1.79-1.8 children per woman since 2020.
It fell from highs of 4.05 in the late 1960s to below 2.1 by the late 1990s, following birth control programs in the 1970s and 80s to slow a postwar population growth and a major famine in the mid 1990s that was estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.
However, it still remains more than double that of rapidly aging South Korea, which saw a record low of 0.78 last year.
According to North Korean state media reports this year, the country has introduced a set of benefits for families with three or more children, including preferential free housing arrangements, state subsidies, free food, medicine and household goods and educational perks for children.
Kim reminded mothers their “primary revolutionary task” was to drill “socialist virtues” into their offspring and instill loyalty to the ruling party during his address.
“Unless a mother becomes a communist, it is impossible for her to bring up her sons and daughters as communists and transform the members of her family into revolutionaries,” he was quoted as saying by state news wire KCNA.
The North Korean leader also warned parents to eliminate foreign influence on young minds, instructing them to send their children to perform hard labour for the state to correct bad behaviour that is not “our style”.
Kim’s emotional address was not the first time he has openly shed tears in public.
In 2020, he cried as he issued a rare apology for failing to guide the reclusive country through turbulent economic times at the outset of the pandemic.
Earlier this year, his eyes brimmed with tears at a military parade in July to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War that divided the peninsula.
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