Portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il are being removed from buildings in his country, the ITAR-Tass news agency cited an unidentified diplomat as saying, but a North Korean diplomat in Moscow denied the report Tuesday.
Kim is the focus of an all-encompassing cult of personality in North Korea and images of him are near-ubiquitous in the country's buildings. It was unclear what might motivate their removal, although such an action could indicate Kim's death or overthrow
An official at South Korea's Unification Ministry said the agency's analysts did not have indications that Kim was facing significant internal political challenges and he declined to comment on whether portraits were being taken down.
In a report from Beijing, ITAR-Tass cited a North Korea-based diplomat as saying that guests at recent Foreign Ministry receptions saw only portraits of Kim's late father, Kim Il Sung, who founded the communist state.