Kim Jong-un remembers father as heir rumors fly

Reuters, SEOUL

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 - Page 5

North Korea may soon witness the birth of the fourth generation of its hereditary dictatorship as television images showed that the wife of the country’s leader appeared to be heavily pregnant.

State television showed pudgy North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife paying homage yesterday at a memorial service for Kim’s father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died a year ago.

The service was in a mausoleum that also houses the embalmed body of the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather.

In the footage, Kim Jong-un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, was wearing traditional North Korean black mourning clothes and looked pregnant. It was not possible to verify if she was pregnant and state media made no official announcement.

The couple, accompanied by top officials, bowed deeply in front of 5m high statues of the late Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung.

Accompanying them were Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek — believed to be the effective second-in-command — and his aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, at a ceremony to inaugurate the renovated Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a giant mausoleum dedicated to the two deceased members of the Kim clan.

The North launched a rocket carrying a satellite last week, sparking condemnation from states that believe it is trying to develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Choe Ryong-hae, the North Korean military’s top political strategist, described the rocket launch in a commemoration speech as “having paraded the great Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and [North] Korea proudly in front of the whole world.”

Placing at official events is extremely important in North Korea and Choe’s and Jang’s prominence at the ceremony was another sign that the young Kim is cementing his leadership by marginalizing the military “old guard” in favor of his own allies.

Kim Jong-un wore his trademark black overcoat throughout the ceremony and remained impassive as his father’s legacy was applauded by thousands in Pyongyang.