Try to Understand: He’s Mosaic Man

Mosaic Man (right) at the 19 March 2023 missile drill (Photo: KCNA).

The ROK NIS has speculated that a senior Korean People’s Army [KPA] official who attended a 19 March ballistic missile drill along side Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) and Kim Ju Ae (Kim Chu-a’e) is a commander of a tactical nuclear weapons unit.  During the 19 March drill, held near the Sohae Space Center in Tonch’ang-ri in North P’yo’ngan, an individual holding the rank of two-star lieutenant-general appeared close to KJU wearing sunglasses and a face mask.  In state media images released, this individual’s face was heavily pixelated and he has been dubbed Mosaic Man.  One bit of criteria NIS used in this assessment is that the man is wearing a small satchel typical of KPA field commanders.  The assessment also pointed to other Mosaic Men appearing at KJU’s inspection of an unnamed munitions factory (“producing a critical weapons system”) on, or around, 27 January 2022.

Mosaic Man standing just behind KJU (2nd right) (Photo: KCNA)
Senior officials with their faces pixelated accompany KJU during a 27 January 2022 visit to a munitions factory (Photo: KCNA).

The reason cited in the assessment is part of “a measure conscious of the possibility of designating a target for sanctions.”  Of course, this is a perfectly sensible reason which was first raised when Mosaic Man surfaced last month.  On the other hand, DPRK state media routinely identifies and photographs other officials who could be subject to sanctions, or whom are currently under sanctions and shown engaged in work which got them sanctioned in the first place.  If Mosaic Man is a commander of a KPA tactical nuke unit, then it is highly improbable that this gentleman has foreign bank accounts or, being a military field commander, will travel outside the DPRK any time soon.

Three senior defense industry officials with their faces pixelated to conceal their identities accompany KJU on a January 2022 visit to a munitions factory. Also in attendance is senior defense industry manager Kim Jong Sik (left) (Photo: KCNA)
A senior official of the Nuclear Weapons Institute with the rank of Lieutenant-General takes notes during KJU’s March 2023 visit to the institute.

If Mosaic Man does command a tactical nuke unit, it stands to reason that he would have some familiarity with the deployment processes and assembling detonators to delivery systems.  When we look at the photos of the Mosaic Men from the January 2022 we might assume that they, too, possess specialized technical knowledge about the DPRK’s nuclear assets.  Another Mosaic Man showed up at KJU’s visit last week to the Nuclear Weapons Institute.  We might conclude that state media (which coordinates content with the State Security Department’s censorship elements via the Publication Guidance Bureau and other institutions) is concealing the identities of the Mosaic Men more from a domestic audience–particularly if some or all of the Mosaic Men link with the Military Security Command which has major role in securing and supervising warhead transportation and assembly and which likes to keep its personnel clandestine–than from beancounters writing up travel bans and sanctions.  Concealing their identities could be motivated by that whole Rogue-General-with-nuke scenario, or simply keeping the identities of nuke commanders on a close hold basis.

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