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Media speculates on Kim\'s heir

Media speculates on Kim\'s heir

North Korea is keeping mum on a possible successor to Kim Jong-il, but one thing is certain: in a country where leaders are revered as gods, the regime will be keeping it all in the family.

Russian and South Korean news reports have said a decision on an heir was likely to come this month, possibly at the culmination of the country's mass games spectacle, put on to mark the 60th anniversary of the Worker's Party of Korea.

Signs of North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, who was named Eternal President four years after his death in 1994, and the younger Kim are everywhere in the capital Pyongyang, on posters, lapel pins and at a popular exhibition of "kimilsungia" flowers.

Life in reclusive North Korea has "greatly improved thanks to the wise guidance of the Great Leader," said 33-year-old Pyongyan resident Kim Sung-il, attending the exhibition of the red flowers, which look much like azaleas, with his wife and toddler son.

Giant portraits of "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung and his son "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il flanked both ends of the exhibition hall, where families posed for portraits, but there was no sign of any of Kim Jong-il's three sons around the capital and no hint as to which of them might succeed him.

"Don't worry. The Dear Leader is very healthy and very enthusiastic in his work," said Choe Jong-hun, a North Korean official guiding foreign reporters.

The world's only communist dynasty has turned reverence for the Kims into a national religion, and analysts say succession will almost certainly fall to one of the three sons.

Kim Jong-nam, the eldest at 34, is said to have fallen out of favor for trying to sneak into Japan on a false passport to visit Toyko Disneyland, leaving Kim Jong-chol, 24, and Kim Jong-un, 22, both educated in Switzerland.

South Korean news reports have placed their bets on Jong-chol, but how the junior generation spends their time and whether one is being groomed over the other remains anyone's guess, with Choe refusing to comment on their current roles.

"We don't know about the private life of the Dear Leader. Why do you want to know about these things?" he asked.

But with Kim Jong-il the same age as his father was when he made him secretary to the Central Committee of the Worker's Party of Korea - an appointment seen as tantamount to being named successor - speculation is mounting.

And while at 63 the Dear Leader is not likely to relinquish power any time soon, choosing an heir now is seen as important to maintaining stability within the leadership, analysts say. It's a leadership whose presence is everywhere.

A giant bronze status of Kim Il-sung towers over the city and although he has been dead for more than a decade, citizens wear his pin on their chests, many saying they have one for each outfit to avoid the risk of forgetting to put one on.

Billboards paying homage to the leadership are everywhere, exhorting people to follow the path of the Socialist Fatherland.

"Whenever I see the slogans I make up my mind to be a good daughter to Kim Jong-il," said interpreter Yon Ok-ju.

With the cult of personality sustained in part by the isolated regime's feeling of being under siege, North Koreans are ready to die for the Kim clan.

"Let's become human bombs to defend our great general!" said Choe.

Updated : 2021-10-16 21:03 GMT+08:00