Kim Jong-il cast in bronze for first time

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Kim Jong-il cast in bronze for first time


The North Korean military gazette released the photo of Kim Jong-il’s statue, according to the Open Radio for North Korea. [YONHAP]

A South Korean activist group yesterday released a photo of a rare bronze statue of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, whose family has been the focus of an intense cult of personality for decades, which may be a further signal of a change in leadership in the country.

The photo, released by Open Radio for North Korea, shows a standing Kim Jong-il with his left hand positioned on his lower back. On one side is a photo of a statue of Kim’s mother; on the other, his father, Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founding president.

As portrayed in the statue, which was featured on the front page of a North Korean military newspaper, Kim Jong-il, 68, looks younger than his years and is dressed in an army uniform.

This is the first such photo to be seen outside North Korea. Only plaster statues of Kim seated in a chair have been shown in the official media before.

The new statue of Kim has drawn attention because rumors have surfaced that he could soon transfer power to his third son, Jong-un, in what would be the only third-generation hereditary power succession in the communist world.

In Pyongyang, a huge statue of Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994, is one of the prime tourist attractions. His embalmed body is in a public mausoleum in a glass coffin. Kim Jong-un, thought to be in his late 20s, “probably led the work of creating and unveiling the statue” of Kim Jong-il, the Open Radio for North Korea quoted an unidentified expert as saying.

Another unnamed expert told the station, which is mainly run by North Korean defectors, that the statue demonstrates the failing health of Kim Jong-il and his desire to be remembered positively.

Kim apparently suffered a stroke in the summer of 2008 and has looked gaunt in public outings since.

The radio station, which posted the photo on its Web site, said the statue appears to “signal the end of the Kim Jong-il era,” citing an unidentified expert.

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