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Kim Jong Un's Putin-esque Pics Invite 'Wonder,' Speculation

North Korean leader's ride on a horse up a sacred snowy mountain could portend big news—or not
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2019 6:21 AM CDT
In this undated photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a white horse to climb Mount Paektu, North Korea. Independent journalists weren't given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed...   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
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(Newser) – In his downtime, Russian leader Vladimir Putin likes to appear, often shirtless, in photos engaged in various manly activities, including fishing and horseback riding. Now North Korea's Kim Jong Un is getting into the act, shown in a series of new images riding a horse up a sacred snowy mountain. His eyes "were full of noble glitters" as he took part in "a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution" during his trot up Mount Paektu, per state media. While Kim doesn't go "full Putin," as the Times puts it (he eschews a shirtless ride as it does look frosty out), he joins other world leaders—the paper notes Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan have all appeared on an equine—in deciding a photo of himself on a horse is good PR.

Kim himself has been spotted on a horse before. So what could the significance of this ride be? The Times notes Kim has shown up at the sacred mountain—said to be, with no evidence, the "mythical" place where Kim Jong Un's father was born, as well as a "central setting for North Korean propaganda"—before making other big decisions, leading some to speculate he's got something up his sleeve that he'll soon announce. The BBC wonders if he'll renege on his vow not to test nukes, while a North Korea expert tells Reuters the act is "a statement, symbolic of defiance." "Having witnessed the great moments of his thinking atop Mount Paektu, all the officials accompanying him were convinced with overflowing emotion and joy that there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution," the country's state news agency notes. (Read more Kim Jong Un stories.)

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