Mon, Dec 17, 2018 - Page 4 News List

North Koreans mark Kim Jong-il’s 2011 death

AP, PYONGYANG

North Koreans yesterday marked the anniversary of the death of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il seven years ago with visits to statues and vows of loyalty to his son, incumbent leader Kim Jong-un.

As snow fell, a steady flow of residents offering flowers and paying respects to the late leader could be seen at Mansu Hill in central Pyongyang, the location of huge bronze statues of the “Dear Leader” and national founder Kim Il-sung, the “Great Leader.”

The anniversary observations were expected to continue today across the country.

Although focused on remembrances of his father, the anniversary also marks Kim Jong-un’s own rise to power.

The death of Kim Jong-il on Dec. 17, 2011, thrust Kim Jong-un into power when he was still in his late 20s and a virtual unknown figure outside of the North. Many outside experts predicted that he would not be up to the task.

However, Kim Jong-un has managed to consolidate power, bolster the country’s economy in the face of intense international sanctions, and attain a goal that his father and grandfather could only dream of: He is the first North Korean leader to possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of reaching the US.

As the nation remembered his father, there was no mention in the state media of the issues that have gotten the most attention elsewhere, including a flurry of speculation in South Korea that Kim Jong-un might visit Seoul by the end of the year or how he intends to deal with growing frustration in Washington over the slow pace of denuclearization talks between the two countries.

Official news agency KCNA instead ran stories about memorials to Kim Jong-il in Libya, Russia and Serbia. Even so, the anniversary was being watched closely for any signs of change or hints of what the country’s leadership might be planning in the months ahead.

With Kim Jong-un’s power base seemingly more solid than ever, and his recent effort to establish himself on the world stage through summits with US President Donald Trump and others, North Korea watchers have been on the lookout for signs that his own personality cult is being bolstered.

Virtually all homes and public offices in North Korea feature portraits of the elder Kims, who are also memorialized in countless statues, mosaics and cenotaphs around the country. North Korean adults wear pins over their hearts bearing the likenesses of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, or both.

This year’s anniversary has so far offered no major departures from past precedent.

The North has yet to come out with a Kim Jong-un pin or to order that his image join the others on every wall, although he and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, have been referred to with increasingly lofty titles — “chairman” for Kim and “respected first lady” for Ri.

A special portrait of the young chairman was unveiled at a ceremony to welcome the visit of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, but none have appeared in public sinc, and unlike those of his father and grandfather, Kim Jong-un’s Jan. 8 birthday has yet to be declared a national holiday or even marked on most calendars.

However, none of that should be assumed to be a sign of weakness. It could indicate strength.

Kim is generally afforded the same reverential treatment by the state media ,and for maintaining a respectful step behind his predecessors he is credited with showing humility and confidence.

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