Will Kim Jong Un Visit the Rocket Launch?

North Korea appears to have been conducting a beautification effort at the Sohae launch center before its upcoming rocket launch. Whether that effort is related to the visit of foreign press on April 8, of foreign observers, or of government dignitaries remains unclear. But it is worth noting that Kim Jong Il observed the April 5, 2009 launch of the Unha-2 at the Tonghae facility. And while there has been some question as to whether or not Kim Jong Un was at the Tonghae launch, there is video evidence to suggest he was also present. This leads us to ask: will Kim Jong Un attend the upcoming launch of the Unha-3 from Sohae?

A short clip of video released by the DPRK in 2009 showed Kim Jong Un congratulating the same group of rocket scientists and engineers that a few minutes earlier were seen standing at attention with his father Kim Jong Il. The video was shot in front of the entrance of the Tonghae headquarters building on either April 5 or 6, 2009. The picture in Figure 1 was taken on the steps of the Tonghae headquarters building with Kim Jong Il. Based on the shadows, the picture could not have been taken in the afternoon after the launch. Since Kim reportedly spent the night of April 5 at Tonghae, the photo was probably taken on the morning of the 6th or possibly the morning before the launch.

Figure 1. Kim Jong Il at Tonghae on April 5 or 6, 2009. (Photo: The Economist, April 11, 2009)

The video clip from which three shots are shown in figures 2, 3, and 4* was probably taken just after Kim Jong Il left the scene. Each shows Kim Jong Un shaking hands with one of the men who were standing next to Kim Jong Il in figure 1. An analysis of this video and a comparison with the photo in figure 1 yielded the following features that prove the two were taken at the same location with the same people:

  • Both have four rows of people and three steps.
  • The brown uniforms on the people in row 2 are the same.
  • The four people (two on each side) next to Kim Jong Il are seen in the videos of Kim Jong Un. They must be the managers.
  • The shadows in both scenes are similar.
  • The fir tree on the right side of both is similar.
  • The building, which has three double doors each with two windows, can be seen in both scenes.
  • The position of the window near the entrance on the right side is similar in both scenes.
Figure 2. Kim Jong Un shaking hands with the man standing to the immediate left of his father. The man standing on the left was the second on the right of Kim Jong Il.
Figure 3. Kim Jong Un still shaking hands with the same person in Figure 2, with the man on the immediate right of Kin Jong Il standing on the right of this photo. Note the door windows in the back and the three stair steps with the rows of people.
Figure 4. Kim Jong Un leaving the headquarters building shaking hands with the man who was second on the left from Kim Jong Il.

The last two features are derived from commercial imagery (figure 5):

  • The driveway with the car is in the right position.
  • There is an overhang in front of the entrance seen in figure 2.
Figure 5: The Headquarters Building the Tonghae launch site, 15 days before the April 5, 2009 launch. (Image: © 2009 DigitalGlobe, Inc.)

*Figures 2, 3, and 4 were screenshots from this video:

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