N. Korea notches up cult around ‘illustrious’ son

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The emphasis on the Kim family’s legitimacy to lead has never been stronger. The most popular of the songs written to honor Kim Jong-un is called “Footsteps,” an obvious reference to his role in carrying out his family’s legacy. On Monday, students in traditional dress swayed and danced to the song at plaza in front of the city’s massive monument to the Workers' Party.

Kim Il-sung remains a revered figure 17 years after his death, and Kim Jong-un appears to be modeling himself after his grandfather, down to his hairdo. Portraits of the young Kim Il-sung hanging on the walls of the Pyongyang office where the president founded the Workers' Party show the same look: a thick head of hair on top and shaved at the sides above the ear.

North Koreans have been gearing up for 2012 for three years with a push to build a “strong and prosperous country.” Factories have been charged with churning out an array of consumer goods designed to improve the people’s daily lives. All across Pyongyang, buildings are being torn down and renovated and new ones built, a campaign said to be led by Kim Jong-un.

At the Wonsan Youth Power Station in eastern North Korea, manager Pyon Ung-kyu said the hydropower plant has put up a third plaque on the wall in honor of the future leader.

One gives blessings to Kim Il-sung, another to Kim Jong-il and the newest — also in honorific red lettering — to the “Illustrious General.”

Across the countryside, similar plaques are visible, posted at schools, farms and shops.

In Pyongyang, Ri Un-suk, manager of a shop selling meat and fish on central Pothongmun Street, recalls how Kim Jong-un, full of energy, turned up with his father last month to inspect the new store.

She described how he ushered his father into an elevator and then bounded up three flights to make sure to greet him when the doors opened.

“He may be the future leader, but he’s still a good son to his father,” she said, standing in front of a plaque commemorating the two Kims’ September visit. “I was impressed by his loyalty as well as his wisdom.”

Associated Press reporter Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this story from Seoul.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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