Whatever westerners thought about images of Kim Jong Un trekking through mountain snows astride a white stallion, the subliminal message sent to North Koreans was to instil confidence that they have a man of strength and destiny holding the reins of power.
Clad in a protracted, light-brown coat and smiling broadly, Kim vowed to surmount US-led sanctions on the rogue regime as he rode the white horse thru the frigid climate panorama.
The images and Kim's rhetoric appeared aimed at bolstering his leadership at home as the North tries to pressure the United States into making concessions in nuclear diplomacy. The mountain, the highest point on the Korean Peninsula, is sacred to North Koreans, and both it and the white horse are symbols associated with the Kim family's dynastic rule.
In 2017, he visited the mountain a few weeks before his new year's address, where he hinted at a diplomatic thaw with South Korea.
Earlier this month, North Korea test fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile and also walked away from denuclearisation talks with USA officials in Stockholm.
South Korean media quickly speculated that Kim may be considering a new strategy in his dealings with the US because he's previously demanded that Washington come up with new proposals to salvage the stalemated diplomacy by the end of December.
"His march on horseback in Mt Paektu is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution", said a KCNA report released on Wednesday.
Kim was accompanied by executives from the Korean National Labour Party Central Committee.
North Korea claims Kim Jong Il, the current leader's late father, was born there.
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The mountain is an important propaganda piece for North Korea, as the Kim dynasty has absorbed its mythology into the family's own lore and deification.
Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder and Kim Jong Un's grandfather, purportedly used the mountain as a hideout when fighting Japanese occupation.
"The situation of the country is hard owing to the ceaseless sanctions and pressure by the hostile forces and there are many hardships and trials facing us", Kim was quoted as saying. "But our people grew stronger through the trials and found their own way of development and learned how to always win in the face of trials".
"North Korea apparently wants to send the message that US sanctions don't work", said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean studies in Seoul.
The Internet was flooded with online jokes and memes after North Korea's state media released the photographs.
But negotiations have been gridlocked since a second summit collapsed in February.
North Korea is under a number of worldwide economic sanctions, imposed because of its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and a record of human rights abuses.
North Korea named its economic effort to recover from the 1950-53 Korean War after Chollima, and more recently the state has taken to exhorting people to work with the "speed of Mallima".
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