SEOUL - Workers at a North Korean terrapin farm probably wished they could withdraw into their protective shells Tuesday, after a visit from leader Kim Jong-Un who lambasted operations at the facility.
A large photo on the front page of the ruling party's official newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, showed a clearly irate Kim wagging an admonishing finger at a group of officials in a building housing terrapin breeding tanks.
During his inspection of the farm, Kim "strongly criticised the shortcoming of its officials as a manifestation of incompetence, outmoded way of thinking and irresponsible work style," the North's official KCNA news agency said in a report on the visit.
Kim appeared to take particular umbrage at the fact that the failings he uncovered were in a farm set up at the personal initiative of his father, Kim Jong-Il, who he succeeded as leader following his death in December 2011.
"The employees who failed to bear deep in their minds (Kim Jong-Il's) leadership exploits could hardly perform their role as masters in production," KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
If all officials worked like those on the farm, North Korea would never achieve the visionary goals of his father, Kim said, adding that their mismanagement would also damage the prestige of the ruling Workers' Party.
Terrapin has long been a popular, if pricey, feature of Korean cuisine and is usually served in a soup that is valued for its nutritional qualities as much as its taste.
Kim Jong-Un, like his father and grandfather before him, conducts scores of "field guidance" inspections every year at civilian and military units across the country.
Each one is covered by the state media, and the reports and pictures nearly always project the image of a smiling or intrigued Kim, questioning and encouraging people as he doles out "expert" advice on their work.
Reports of a stern, public dressing-down like the one given to the officials at the Taedonggang Terrapin Farm are unusual, and undoubtedly deeply worrying for those on the receiving end.
According to South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS), Kim has ordered the execution of more than a dozen officials so far this year, apparently for questioning his authority.
The NIS reported last week that the North's defence minister, Hyon Yong-Chol, had been purged and most likely executed for insubordination and dozing off during a formal military rally.