In a modern state, most citizens obtain information about their leader through the media. Only a limited number of people – for example, the leader’s staff, family members, and friends – contact the leader directly. As most citizens have only indirect contact, the information they obtain about their leader has a strongly symbolic character. North Koreans are no exception. As they are unlikely to contact their leader personally, they receive their leader’s information passively as it is given by the media. The leader’s behavior is therefore highly symbolic. Under an isolated social system, mixed with secrecy on the part of the leader, the symbolism of his behavior may be even more salient than for any other state leader. North Korean leaders seldom hold press conferences and face-to-face

interviews, and seldom give public speeches. When Kim Il Sung was alive, he made an annual New Year address that was broadcast to the public. His successor, Kim Jong Il, was still more secretive, so it was more difficult to obtain information from him. Although Kim Jong Il was the state leader for eighteen years, he was hardly ever exposed to the media in real time. Perhaps the only time when outsiders heard his voice was at the inter-Korean summit of June 2000, alongside his counterpart Kim Dae Jung. This secrecy-prone leadership style made his behavior more symbolic than that of any other leader. The third leader, Kim Jong Un, although less secretive than his father, is still extremely difficult to approach. This chapter articulates the symbolism of North Korean leaders’ acts by

examining their hyo˘nji chido [on-the-spot guidance or guidance tours]. In the North Korean social context of an extreme leadership cult, these guidance tours are highly symbolic acts. In this chapter, I use the concept of symbolic leadership to explain the symbolism of this leadership act. Specifically, North Korean leaders’ guidance tours will be analyzed here as an example of symbolic leadership. One reason why the leaders’ guidance tours have been chosen to explore the symbolism of North Korean leadership behavior is that all three state leaders – Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un – have conducted the same act: whether regularly or irregularly, they have conducted guidance tours in order to achieve their policy goals for several decades. As a method of policy guidance, this act is politically very significant in North

Korea. According to the state, the leaders’ guidance tours are regarded as “the most perfect revolutionary way of work” and “a critical factor in achieving miracles and great innovations in revolution and construction.”1