Share this article

print logo

Son rises to military leader in N. Korea

North Korea hailed Kim Jong Il's son as "supreme leader" of the 1.2 million-strong military, ramping up its campaign to install the young man as the nation's next leader even as the mourning for his father continued a week after his death.

Kim Jong Un made a third visit Saturday to the palace where his father's body is lying in state -- this time as "supreme leader of the revolutionary armed forces" and accompanied by North Korea's top military brass, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

The new title and public show of support from the military leadership sent a strong signal that the nation will maintain Kim Jong Il's "military first" policy for the time being.

Earlier Saturday, the newspaper Rodong Sinmun, mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party, urged Kim Jong Un to accept the top military post: "Comrade Kim Jong Un, please assume the supreme commandership, as wished by the people."

Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s and was unveiled in September 2010 as his father's choice as successor, will be the third-generation Kim to rule the nation of 24 million. His father and grandfather led the country under different titles, and it remains unclear which other titles will be bestowed on the grandson.

Kim Il Sung, who founded North Korea in 1948, retains the title of "eternal president" even after his death in 1994.

Son Kim Jong Il ruled as chairman of the National Defense Commission, supreme commander of the Korean People's Army and general secretary of the Workers' Party.

Kim Jong Un was promoted to four-star general and appointed a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party. He had been expected to assume a number of other key posts while being groomed to succeed his father.

North Korea has emphasized the Kim family legacy during the sped-up succession movement for Kim Jong Un. State media invoked Kim Il Sung in declaring the people's support for the next leader, comparing the occasion to Kim Jong Il's ascension to "supreme commander" exactly 20 years ago Saturday.

At the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, Kim Jong Un and senior commanders paid silent tribute to Kim Jong Il, "praying for his immortality," KCNA said. The military also pledged its loyalty to Kim Jong Un, the report said.

"Let the whole army remain true to the leadership of Kim Jong Un over the army," KCNA reported -- a pledge reminiscent of those made when Kim Jong Il was named supreme commander.

The call to rally behind Kim Jong Un, dubbed the "Great Successor" in the wake of his father's death Dec. 17, comes amid displays of grief across North Korea.

For days, life in Pyongyang had come to a standstill, with shops and restaurants closed. Downtown Koryo Hotel, one of several in Pyongyang catering to foreigners, was nearly empty.

There are no comments - be the first to comment