Kims celebrate with rare banquet

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Kims celebrate with rare banquet

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended a rare banquet in Pyongyang Friday with his son and chosen successor Kim Jong-un in celebration of the 19th anniversary of Kim Jong-il being named the North’s top military commander, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Observers speculate the high-profile gathering in Pyongyang was designed to boost internal cohesion following recent military provocations, including the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March and the Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

“[Kim] warmly waved back to the enthusiastically cheering participants and heartily congratulated them for devoting themselves to the defense of the country and upholding the Songun [military-first] philosophy and the revolutionary leadership of the party,” the KCNA said.

The North has marked the anniversary every year since Kim’s appointment as supreme commander of the North’s military at a general meeting of the Workers’ Party in 1991.

But the last banquet was held in 2001, on the 10th anniversary of Kim’s rise to power, and Kim did not attend.

Analysts said Friday’s banquet served the duel purpose of showing that Kim remains firmly in power despite growing health concerns and to solidify allegiance in the ruling circle to named successor Kim Jong-un, amid rumors that the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island was orchestrated to boost the young son’s credentials.

The Nov. 23 attack, the first by the North on inhabited South Korean territory since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, killed four South Koreans including two citizens.

Revelations of a uranium enrichment facility to a visiting scientist from the United States last month has also heightened tensions.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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