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N. Korea’s new leader is grandfathered in
Question of the Day
SEOUL — North Korea’s young new leader gets rock-star treatment when he visits his troops - just as his father did.
But while the late Kim Jong-il mostly stayed aloof in dark shades, his son holds hands and hugs his soldiers.
Kim Jong-un seems to want to bond with his country’s people.
The style hearkens back to Kim Il-sung, his grandfather and revered founder of the country and ruling dynasty, and may reflect an attempt to turn a corner on the periods of hardship and famine under Kim Jong-il, analysts say.
Kim Il-sung’s image as a daring young general fighting Japanese colonial troops is powerfully engraved in the minds of North Koreans.
Cheers, applause and calls of “Hurrah!” greet Kim Jong-un as he examines the heating systems of soldiers’ quarters, the pressure of their water faucets, the books stacked in their libraries - even the taste of their food.
The North Korean state media reports and video footage of such “guidance visits” provide rare windows into the personalities of North Korea’s leaders for outsiders and for the country’s people alike.
Few North Koreans, for instance, even knew what the elder Mr. Kim’s voice sounded like, analysts say, despite his ruling for 17 years until his death Dec. 17.
The younger Mr. Kim may be trying to emulate Kim Il-sung and move away from his father, who ruled during a famine in the mid- to late-1990s that killed hundreds of thousands, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University.
North Korea also has faced international condemnation and sanctions for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“He’ll try to look comfortable among the masses. He’ll try to form an intimacy with the people, perhaps more than his father did,” Mr. Koh said.
Imitating Kim Il-sung is a “positive for Kim Jong-un, because memories of his father, Kim Jong-il, aren’t very good among ordinary people,” Mr. Koh said. “People fondly remember the days of Kim Il-sung.”
As children in military uniforms cheered and clapped, a documentary on state TV showed Kim embracing one child’s face with his hands.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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