North Korea’s Kim assumes late father’s mantle

North Korea’s Kim assumes late father’s mantle
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds at the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, on January 11, 2021. (Korean Central News Agency/via REUTERS)
North Korea’s Kim assumes late father’s mantle
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds at the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, on January 11, 2021. (Korean Central News Agency/via REUTERS)
Updated 11 January 2021

North Korea’s Kim assumes late father’s mantle

North Korea’s Kim assumes late father’s mantle

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has had his official party title changed, state media reported Monday, assuming a position previously held by his late father in what analysts said was a move to bolster his authority.
The North Korean economy is struggling in the face of self-imposed coronavirus isolation, and is subject to multiple sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
At the same time, nuclear talks with the United States have been deadlocked since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in February 2019.
The ruling Workers’ Party of Korea “unanimously adopted” a decision to elect Kim as general secretary at its congress on Sunday, the official KCNA news agency reported.
“All the delegates expressed full support with stormy applause in great excitement,” it said.
The South Korean military said it detected signs that a military parade may have been staged Sunday night for the congress.
The last such gathering five years ago had named Kim as party chairman in what was largely seen as a formal coronation for the leader, who was in his early 30s at the time.
The new title comes after Kim pledged at the meeting to strengthen his nuclear-armed nation’s military capabilities, and called the US his country’s “foremost principal enemy.”
He also admitted that “almost all sectors fell a long way short of the set objectives” in North Korea’s previous economic plan.
Experts said the new nomenclature was largely symbolic, with the congress changing job titles to reinstate a previously scrapped party secretariat system.
North Korea is more isolated than ever after closing its borders last January to protect itself against the coronavirus that first emerged in neighbor and key ally China.
“It’s another indirect way of admitting that plans introduced in 2016 — including the new chairman system — did not really work out,” said defector-turned-researcher Ahn Chan-il of the World Institute for North Korea Studies in Seoul.
“Kim wanted to create a new image for himself and his era — that’s different from his father’s — by becoming a ‘chairman’, but it looks like he feels the need to stress his connection to his father in order to consolidate his leadership during this difficult time.”
Kim’s father Kim Jong Il has remained the party’s Eternal General Secretary since soon after his 2011 death, while the current leader’s grandfather Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder, is the country’s Eternal President despite dying in 1994.
The congress is the top ruling party gathering, a grand political set-piece that reinforces the regime’s authority and can serve as a platform for announcements of policy shifts or elite personnel changes.
The meeting named a new political bureau, which did not include Kim’s sister and key adviser Kim Yo Jong.
She appeared to suffer a setback, not appearing on the lists of those appointed to the party central committee, having previously been an alternate member.
Analysts say North Korea is using the congress to send the incoming US administration of Joe Biden a message of defiance, but is treading carefully after a tumultuous relationship between Kim and the outgoing Donald Trump.
The South Korean military said Monday it had detected signs a military parade had been held to accompany the congress on Sunday night in Pyongyang, but was tracking whether it was “an actual event or its rehearsal.”
Earlier reports cited satellite images indicating a parade “with military elements” could take place, but without necessarily showing off the North’s latest missiles.
Pyongyang held a nighttime military parade in October to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling party, when it showed off a huge new intercontinental ballistic missile.
Analysts concurred it was the largest road-mobile, liquid-fueled missile anywhere in the world, and was highly likely to be designed to carry multiple warheads in independent re-entry vehicles.
In his New Year’s address Monday, the South’s President Moon Jae-in — who brokered the talks process between Kim and Trump — said Seoul would seize on the change of administration in Washington to “make a last effort to achieve a major turnaround in the stalled US-North Korea and inter-Korean dialogues.”


Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign
Updated 18 January 2021

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign
  • Indonesia planning to inoculate 181 million in nationwide vaccination drive

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government’s strategy to promote coronavirus vaccination is under fire after an influencer who received a vaccine jab last week was spotted violating health guidelines just a few
hours later.

Indonesia started the nationwide vaccination drive on Wednesday to inoculate 181 million of its 276 million people, after the national drug regulator authorized the emergency use of the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech and the country’s highest authority on Islamic affairs approved it as halal, or permissible under Islamic law.

President Joko Widodo, who was the first Indonesian to receive the vaccine, described the campaign as a “game changer,” amid hopes that achieving herd immunity would help to revive the economy, which has been reeling from the pandemic. 

Alongside officials and religious leaders, 33-year-old soap opera star Raffi Ahmad also received the jab. Government strategists hoped he would promote vaccine acceptance with his huge social media presence of some 50 million followers on Instagram and 19 million on YouTube.

However, soon after receiving his shot Ahmad was photographed at a party, without a face mask and violating social distancing measures imposed by the government to contain the virus spread. The photos quickly made the rounds on social media, provoking a backlash to the government’s campaign and resulting in a lawsuit against the celebrity.

“He was really careless. He is tasked with promoting the vaccination drive, but he failed to behave accordingly,” said David Tobing, an independent lawyer who has filed the case against Ahmad for “violating the regulations to control the pandemic and for public indecency.”

“I demand in my lawsuit that the court order Ahmad to stay at home for 30 days after he gets his second vaccine jab and to issue a public apology in national print and broadcast media,” Tobing told Arab News on Saturday. “I filed the lawsuit after I received a lot of feedback from the public, including COVID-19 survivors and those who have lost loved ones because of the coronavirus.”

Ahmad has apologized on social media, saying that he did not want to disappoint the president and the public after getting the privilege of being vaccinated, but justified going to the party as it was held at a private home and said that he taken the mask off only to eat. The first hearing against Ahmad is scheduled to be held at a district court in Depok near Jakarta on Jan. 27, Tobing said. He added that he is aware that Ahmad had apologized but the actor “did not seem to have any regret.”

In response to a question by Arab News at a press briefing after the incident, national COVID-19 task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said that officials had reprimanded Ahmad over the blunder. He justified the involvement of celebrities in the vaccination campaign.

“When we have a major program like vaccination, we hope that a big influencer such as Raffi Ahmad can play a pivotal role to make sure young people will support the vaccination,” Adisasmito said.

Experts have criticized the government’s strategy, saying that Ahmad receiving the vaccine is unlikely to appease public concerns over the vaccine’s efficacy and possible side effects.

“Health professionals, religious figures and government officials have more credibility and integrity to promote this vaccination drive than influencers,” said Sulfikar Amir, a sociologist from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Amir, who initiated a petition in early December calling on the government to give vaccinations to all citizens when Jakarta was still planning to inoculate only selected groups, said that by appointing the celebrity influencer to promote immunization the government showed that it “has no ability to influence the public to take part in the vaccination drive.”

“This is not the same as promoting consumer goods that the influencers normally do,” he said. “It is about public health issues.”