North Korean state media reported on a rare expression of public emotion from leader Kim Jong Un Monday, who felt “bitter sorrow” while visiting survivors of a bus crash that killed 32 Chinese tourists over the weekend.
The despot visited the hospital in Pyongyang to meet the only two survivors of a bus carrying mainly Chinese tourists that plunged off a bridge in North Hwanghae province Sunday.
Some 36 people were killed in the tragedy, including four North Koreans.
"The unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart and that he couldn't control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives," state-run news agency KCNA reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently met Kim when the North Korean leader made a surprise visit to Beijing in March, urged officials in Pyongyang to do everything they could to save the two survivors, who are in a critical condition.
Chinese state media showed images of the crash site with the bus lying on its roof.
Kim also visited the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang and “expressed his deep sympathy” to Ambassador Li Jinjun.
Kim’s reported show of emotion — and the fact the state acknowledged the bus crash — is a significant departure from the choreographed aloof persona of both the leader and the country.
This is likely because the crash involved China, a hugely important trading partner, as well as a security guarantor amid mounting international pressure over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
The tragedy also comes at a tumultuous time for Kim, as he prepares for a high-profile summit with South Korean President Moon Jae In Friday, and a summit with Donald Trump next month. The North Korean chief has been trying to act more like a standard world leader in recent months, from talks with Seoul to foreign trips abroad. This latest shift could be part of that image revamp.
Yet whether Kim truly felt sorrow for the victims is questionable. This is, after all, a man who last year ordered five aides to be killed with an anti-aircraft gun.
Cover image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un making an address to end the 7th Workers Party Congress at the April 25 Palace in Pyongyang. (KCNA/AFP/Getty Images)