North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KJU Succession in Portrait and Silkscreen

Supposed photograph of Kim Jong-un in 1998, around age 14

The latest buzz around hereditary succession is centered on a story circulated by Rescue the North Korean People! Urgent Action Network.   According to this account, the official portrait of successor Kim Jong-un (a/k/a: Kim Jong-eun, Kim Cho’ng-un, Kim Jong Un) has been prepared and ready to roll for KIS Birthday celebrations on 15 April.  Kim Se-jong reports for Korea Times:

A portrait of Kim Jong-un, the third son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, is ready for public distribution, according to a non-governmental group based in Japan.

Lee Young-hwa, president of “Rescue the North Korean People! Urgent Action Network” (RENK), told Yonhap News Agency Saturday that the regime has copies of the heir apparent’s portrait ready, and “we assume that these will be distributed on Kim Il-sung’s birthday, which falls on April 15.” The late Kim Il-sung is founder of the Stalinist state and father of Jong-il.

“This means that the regime is getting closer to announcing Jong-un’s succession,” Lee said.

As the news of Jong-il’s failing health was publicized last year, people grew curious in regards to who the next leader of the world’s most isolated state will be.

The new portraits will take their place on the wall with those of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, reports Yomiuri Shimbun:

Yi said that a person living in Pyongyang who has contact with RENK was told about the portraits by a WPK official. The source said that the portraits could be distributed as early as 15 April, the late Kim Il Sung’s birthday, to schools and other places around the country, where they will be hung next to the portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

In the mean time, Choson Ilbo focuses on the intangible cultural conditions around the Morningstar General’s succession:

A propaganda poster in front of the Pyongyang First Department Store shows massive fireworks that took place in April last year and a long-distance rocket whose launch ended in failure last year, both hailed as achievements of leader Kim Jong-il’s son and heir apparent Jong-un.

The photo was taken by a foreigner who recently visited North Korea.

Poster combining two achievements and the CNC (computer numerical control) theme attributed to Kim Jong-un's succession. According to Yonhap, the image was taken "by a recent visitor." (Photo: Yonhap)

Other signs of a possible Kim Jong-un succession include the performance of “Let’s Drink a Toast!” at several of the events relating to the reopening of the 8 February Vinalon Complex in Hamhung, which included the rally attended by KJI.  “Let’s Drink a Toast!” was identified in reports of a possible KJU birthday celebration in early January 2010.  The lyrics of another song associated with the succession were featured briefly on a documentary made to commemorate KJI’s birthday in February.  There were also reports in mid-February that more Workers’ Organization units and Party study groups were being taught the tune and lyrics to “Footsteps.”

A propaganda official is shown teaching the lyrics of "Footsteps" on a cooperative farm

Kim Jong-un is thought to be more open and less parochial than his father.  In mid February an unconfirmed account appeared about KJU’s participation in a construction planning meeting in 2008:

The functionaries worried at the time that if foreign-made cooling and heating air conditioners and shower devices were installed in the apartments, Kim Jong Il might look around the apartments after completion and think it unsatisfactory that they were not North Korean-made. He [the news source] says that Kim Cho’ng-u’n addressed this with the following content.

“No need to worry. We should think that we will make better goods by learning and adopting foreign technology in the future, if need be. The general (Kim Jong Il) also well knows our current situation. I will tell him all about it.”

In addition, he said that rather than worrying that the air conditioner and shower device are foreign-made, the more important matter is to resolve the issue of the funds to purchase them.

This suggests that Kim Cho’ng-u’n has no reluctance for using foreign-made goods, certainly, but going beyond that, none for adopting foreign technology, either. In other words, it is one proof that his reform and openness tendency and practicality are considerably higher than Kim Jong Il, who champions “chuch’e industry” and “self-reliance.”

Yonhap reports that US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told a meeting Seoul of “a medical analysis” giving KJI three years to live.

Kim Jong-il in 1966, age 25


This article was written on 16 Mar 2010, and is filled under KCTV, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un, Korean Workers' Party (KWP), leadership succession, Propaganda, Propaganda and Agitation Department, succession.

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