At Dad’s birthday, son gets big introduction

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At Dad’s birthday, son gets big introduction

Kim Jong-un, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s son, appears to be well on his way to take his father’s place, as the North’s official broadcaster this week mentioned his name before all other officials in a report regarding a celebration banquet for the leader’s birthday.

“Those who work for the Workers’ Party, the country and the military were at the banquet: Kim Jong-un, Ri Yong-ho, Kim Yong-chun, Kim Ki-nam, Choe Tae-bok, Kim Kyong-hui, Gang Sok-ju, Jang Song-thaek,” the Korean Central Television narrator said yesterday, going on to name 14 other officials who had been present at the banquet.

The event, held by the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, its Central Military Commission and North Korea’s National Defense Commission, was on Feb. 16.

Kim Jong-il’s youngest son was also called first in a report the day before on the leader’s 69th birthday, ahead of Ri Yong-ho. Ri, a powerful military man, has held the same position as Jong-un since last year when they were both named vice chairmen of the party’s Central Military Commission.

KCTV video footage broadcast on Kim Jong-il’s birthday featured Kim on field guidance trips with the heir-apparent at his side, emphasizing the power of both father and son.

The video also showed Kim Jong-un accompanying his father on field guidance trips as far back as the beginning of last year, and is being seen as Kim Jong-il educating his heir on his future role as leader.

The same day, KCTV also showed ice sculptures made in celebration of Kim Jong-il’s birthday with added praise for Kim Jong-un.

“At this time, we feel it is a little early to say that this is an official change [within North Korea],” said an official at the Ministry of Unification.

“I cannot say for sure that this is a change that has come to stay or something just to mark Kim Jong-il’s birthday. However, we are watching the situation with interest.”

Not all reports have had Kim Jong-un listed first among participants at special events, but analysts believe that this week’s displays signify that the heir-apparent is steadily paving his way to ascension.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-il is to have displayed his power as incumbent leader of the communist state by attending the banquet held by the Workers’ Party and the Central Military Committee.

Two celebratory banquets were held by the two groups in 2000 and 2007 and this year was the first that Kim Jong-il personally made an appearance.

“As soon as comrade Kim Jong-il stepped out, the participants cheered wildly,” said the broadcaster.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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