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Kim Jong-un’s resemblance to his grandfather is uncanny — and probably strategic.

He is in his late 20s, undeniably young for the leader of a nation. But Kim Il-sung was just a few years older when he emerged in 1945 to lead the North after Japan’s World War II defeat ended its colonial rule of Korea.

“When Kim Jong-un smiles, that reminds me exactly of a 33-year-old Kim Il-sung,” Mr. Ahn said.

Photos of Kim Il-sung hanging on the walls of the Workers’ Party Foundation Museum in Pyongyang, spotted during an October visit by the Associated Press, show a dapper young man with a startling similarity to Kim Jong-un. Even their hairlines are trimmed identically.

The grandson walks, shoulders thrown back, and gestures with both hands like his grandfather.

Last year, Kim Jong-un appeared in a light gray parka like the one his father famously wore. And during the mourning period, Kim Jong-un donned a dark Mao-style suit like the one his father wore when Kim Il-sung died in 1994.

However, since then, Kim Jong-un has traded the parka for a dark, double-breasted winter overcoat — much like the jackets his grandfather favored.


Solemn and somber in mourning, Kim Jong-un followed the routine set by his father at Kim Il-sung’s 1994 funeral. He bowed at three sides of his father’s glass-encased casket at Kumsusan Memorial Palace, just as his father did 17 years earlier.

For the funeral, officials dusted off one of Kim Il-sung’s Lincoln Continentals for the procession through the snowy streets of Pyongyang. Just as in 1994, mourners lined the street wailing.

But Kim Jong-un played an even more public role in the procession than his father in 1994. Barehanded and bareheaded, he walked with the hearse, right hand held up in a salute, left hand at times resting on the vehicle.

For many in Pyongyang, it was their first chance to see the new leader in person.


Kim Jong-un wasted no time in wading into the public eye. His first inspection visit without his father was a well-documented New Year’s Day trip to a tank unit with symbolic ties to his family and his nation’s history.

He laughed and clapped during his visit with the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su tank division, and even pulled officers close to give them a word of advice. He got busy inspecting bunks and testing the water faucets.

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