SEOUL– North Korean state media outlets have been pitching a “state-first principle” recently in an indication that leader Kim Jong-un is trying to unite people with calls for loyalty to the country, rather than to the supreme leader, analysts said Tuesday.

The slogan “state-first principle,” which first appeared in state media in 2017, has been mentioned in state media outlets on a near daily basis after leader Kim called on all party members and people to “cherish the principle of our state first as an element of their faith” in his 2019 New Year’s address.

On Sunday, the country’s main newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an article that “being loyal to the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea is an important task arising in upholding the principle of our state first.”

The paper also said in an editorial last week that the principle “reflects the requirement of the times and developing reality most correctly.”

Analysts said the North’s leadership is trying to inspire people’s loyalty to the country and maintain internal unity as the regime is in negotiations with the United States over its nuclear weapons.

Kim launched his peace offensive towards the international community last year, holding three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well as a historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June.

Until the peace overtures, the communist nation spent years accelerating its nuclear and long-range missile programs, conducting a number of test launches and explosions that drove the situation to the brink of war.

Some observers said the recent emphasis on the state is aimed at boosting patriotism among the younger generation that has experienced “marketization.”

“It seems like Kim Jong-un, who was educated abroad, realized that he can no longer unify people through the way his father did,” Lee Woo-young, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said, referring to the emphasis on the state instead of the leader himself.

North Korea also unveiled a new song titled “Our National Flag” on New Year’s Day and publicized the song through its propaganda outlets.

Source: Yonhap News Agency