North Korea has officially named Kim Jong Un as Supreme Commander, the country said early today, putting him formally at the head of the 1.2 million-strong military and further strengthening his authority in the wake of Kim Jong Il's death.
An unannounced Workers' Party meeting Friday proclaimed that Kim Jong Il's son and successor, who is in his late 20s, "assumed supreme commandership of the Korean People's Army" according to a will made by Kim Jong Il on Oct. 8, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement early Saturday morning.
The meeting of the North's ruling party came one day after the official mourning period for Kim Jong Il ended and senior military and political officials publicly declared Kim Jong Un leader of the party, military and people at a memorial for his father attended by hundreds of thousands.
Officials and state media have bestowed on Kim Jong Un a string of titles as North Korea's elite rally around him in the wake of his father's death on Dec. 17.
But the title Supreme Commander -- and its formal approval by the powerful Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party -- is a clear sign that Kim Jong Un is fast consolidating power over North Korea. It's also the latest step in a burgeoning personality cult around him.
Kim Jong Un should be "the only center of unity, cohesion and leadership" of the Workers' Party, North Korea's state media said, and the military should uphold the "songun," or military-first, politics laid down by Kim Jong Il.
Titles are an important part of North Korea's efforts to link Kim Jong Un to the myth-building surrounding the Kim family legacy.
Kim Il Sung, the country's first and only president, retains the title Eternal President even after his death.
Kim Jong Il held three main positions: chairman of the National Defense Commission, general secretary of the Workers' Party and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army. According to the constitution, his position as chairman of the National Defense Commission made him Supreme Leader of North Korea.
The North has made great efforts to show the world a unified face, but Kim Jong Un's age and inexperience have raised questions outside North Korea about his leadership. o
The North warned Friday that there would be no softening of its position toward South Korea's government.
North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission said the country would never deal with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative who ended a no-strings-attached aid policy toward the North in 2008.
"We declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should not expect any change from us," the National Defense Commission said.