Shades of North Korea’s founder in young leader

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The division was the first North Korean unit to march into Seoul during the early days of the Korean War in 1950, and was a favorite unit of Kim Jong-il. The visit sent a pointed message about Kim Jong-un’s intention to uphold his father’s “military first” policy, and it gave North Koreans a glimpse of his style.

The photos and documentary footage were sent within two days of the visit — notably quick turnaround for state media, which in the last years of Kim Jong-il’s life typically provided only still images of the aging leader.

Mr. Ahn said it seemed odd to him that state media would show Kim Jong-un’s easy laughter with the troops just two weeks after his father’s death.

“It is a sign of the urgency the North feels in trying to put behind the Kim Jong-il leadership,” he said.


New banners and posters in Pyongyang urge the people to “follow the leadership of respected Comrade Kim Jong-un” and “devotedly defend” him.

Kim Jong-un also made his debut on a postage stamp: a 70-won stamp, equivalent to 50 U.S. cents at official exchange rates, depicts a smiling Kim Jong-un with his father, both clad in the same light gray parka.

His official portrait has not been made public yet, and it remains to be seen whether it will hang next to those of his father and grandfather in every building in North Korea.

Reports in South Korean media say Pyongyang’s premier Mansudae Art Studio created a Kim Jong-un portrait in 2010; it could be revealed as early as his birthday Sunday, predicted Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute in South Korea.

North Koreans also show their loyalty by wearing pins of the Kims. But even today, most still wear Kim Il-sung’s visage pinned to their shirts, not Kim Jong-il‘s.


Kim Jong-un became known in North Korea as the “Young General” beginning in September 2010, when state media announced that he had been made a four-star general. He became “Respected General” or “Illustrious General” last year in signs that offered blessings to him, his father and grandfather.

The day Kim Jong-il’s death was announced, state media referred to the son with a new, telling nickname: “Great Successor.”

“Supreme commander” of the military; “supreme leader” of the people, party and army; “great leader” — the nicknames began to echo those of his grandfather and father. The most affectionate remains “dear comrade” or “dear respected comrade.”

Kim Il-sung ruled as president and remains North Korea’s “eternal president” long after his death.

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