Kim Jong-un: North Korean leader rides horse up sacred mountain

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International desk, October 16: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has climbed the country’s highest mountain on horseback, according to state-run media.A series of photos released by KCNA show Mr Kim astride a white horse on a snow-covered Mount Paektu, BBC reports.

This is not the first time he has scaled the 2,750-metre peak.

The mountain holds a special place in the country’s identity – and is said to be the birthplace of former leader Kim Jong-il, the father of Kim Jong-un.

“His march on horseback in Mt Paektu is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” said a KCNA report released on Wednesday.

“Sitting on the horseback atop Mt Paektu, [he] recollected with deep emotion the road of arduous struggle he covered for the great cause of building the most powerful country, with faith and will as firm as Mt Paektu.”

In 2017, he visited the mountain a few weeks before his new year’s address, where he hinted at a diplomatic thaw with South Korea.

“Some South Korean observers noticed that [he] normally goes to Paektu before making some important decisions,” Fyodor Tertitskiy, a senior researcher at Seoul’s Kookmin University, told specialist news site NK News.

“Given that there is no progress in talks with Washington, it looks like he has one to make.”

Another North Korea specialist said the images of Mr Kim were meant to “project authority”.

“This may appear strange or comical to us, but it’s supposed to look epic,” said Peter Ward.

Mr Kim has reportedly climbed Mount Paektu at least three times, and made a joint visit to the mountain with South Korean president Moon Jae-in in 2018.

KCNA previously released photos of Mr Kim atop the mountain, after apparently climbing it in black leather shoes.

Mount Paektu, an active volcano, is said to be the birthplace of Dangun, the founder of the first Korean kingdom more than 4,000 years ago.

The mountain is hundreds of kilometres from the capital Pyongyang, and sits right on the border with between North Korea and China.

Earlier this month, North Korean officials held talks with US officials in Sweden, the first since US President Donald Trump and Mr Kim met briefly at the inter-Korean border zone in June.

North Korea’s top nuclear envoy Kim Myong Gil said the negotiations had “not fulfilled our expectation and finally broke off”.

However, the US maintained that “good discussions were had”.

Before the talks, North Korea fired a new type of ballistic missile, its 11th test this year.