North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was nominated chairman of the Korean Workers’ Party, but more North Koreans do not hold him in high regard, an activist says. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun
SEOUL, May 20 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un has yet to earn the grudging respect of ordinary North Koreans.
Most North Koreans who do not curry favor with the regime do not refer to him as the "general" or the "supreme leader," according to defector and activist Jeong Kwang-il.
In the past, North Korean leaders were addressed with honorifics, Jeong said, according to South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo.
"But nowadays when I speak to North Koreans on the phone, they just call him 'Jong Un,' the way one would refer to a friend," Jeong said.
The North Koreans Jeong referred to are most likely sources of information located in the country.
That trend could be frustrating the young Kim, who recently was declared "Chairman" during North Korea's Seventh Party Congress.
The new role was announced in order to consolidate his rule over the country and for Kim to follow in the footsteps of his biological grandfather Kim Il Sung.
But the lack of reforms and improvement to people's lives could be having a greater effect on perceptions of Kim in the country.
Jeong also said during a conference held Thursday in London that defector activism, including the delivery of South Korean videos, such as films of resettled defectors in the South, are making an impact on North Korean understanding of the outside world.
Jeong and his organization No Chain has delivered a total of 500-600 compact discs or flash drives since 2012. Memory cards that can be placed inside mobile phones have also been sent across the border.
North Koreans caught viewing banned material are being let go, that is, if they can bribe officers, which allows the media to circulate across the country.
Disillusioned with the regime after viewing the media, some North Koreans have started to call the leader "that guy Jong Un" or sometimes "that kid," according to Jeong.
There's evidence North Koreans are no longer afraid to breach rules of conduct, the activist said.
Let us hope and pray that this is a beginning to the opening up of North Korea. If Kim Jong Un continues to loosen his grip on the people, only good can come from it. The fear is that he could react very poorly when he becomes fully aware of it. We have seen what he is capable of doing in executing members of his own family, so there is much danger yet.