In the News – N. Korea’s state media tout new leader’s young age

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In the News – N. Korea’s state media tout new leader’s young age

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s propaganda machines are churning out reports highlighting the early achievements of new leader Kim Jong-un, as his young age and apparent lack of experience continue to raise doubts about his leadership.

The new leader, thought to be in his late 20s, inherited power from his father Kim Jong-il, who died of heart failure on Dec. 17. Kim’s sudden demise accelerated the chosen heir’s rise to power, though with far less grooming than his father had received. Initial fears of internal chaos soon subsided as Kim Jong-un appeared to be consolidating his power in the communist regime.

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In the News – New North Korean Leader Faces Uphill Struggle

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In the News – New N.Korean Leader Faces Uphill Struggle

New North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will have a tough road ahead now that his father Kim Jong-il is buried and the real job begins. So far he has only had to follow protocol and look sad by his father’s coffin, but the impoverished country faces a host of problems, especially in its dealings with the international community.

Kim Jong-il elicited some grudging respect for the expert way he played the international community. His brinkmanship tactics involved threats and nuclear development, alternating with negotiations and concessions to extract aid. But Jong-un has no foreign-policy experience. “Only those who know where the brink is can play the brinkmanship game,” one diplomat said. “But Kim Jong-un probably has no idea where the brink is.”

North Koreans react during late leader Kim Jong-ils funeral procession in Pyongyang on Wednesday. /AP-Newsis

North Koreans react during late leader Kim Jong-ils funeral procession in Pyongyang on Wednesday. /AP-Newsis

The void left by Kim Jong-il’s death is even bigger in relations with China, which is North Korea’s sole lifeline. “The Chinese leadership has had difficulty with Kim Jong-il’s brinkmanship tactics,” a source in China said, but he was always able to extract more aid and investment because Beijing preferred the status quo and he tended to highlight the “blood ties” between the two countries, which count for a great deal in Confucian societies. Kim Jong-un, by contrast, will now have to deal with Chinese leaders who are three to four decades his seniors.

And North Korea urgently needs money to pay for celebrations of regime founder Kim Il-sung’s centenary if it is to keep an increasingly restive and starving population in line. “People have high hopes for what the party will give to them” on Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday on April 15 next year, a source in North Korea said. “If the special rations are way below people’s expectations, there could be an outburst of pent-up discontent.”

The North Korean regime has been living on borrowed time with constant promises of a big party in 2012, when it had vowed to become a “powerful and prosperous nation.” Kim Jong-il tried to trade a halt in uranium enrichment for 240,000 tons of food assistance from the U.S. before his death.

“People’s dissatisfaction didn’t mean much under absolute rule,” a North Korean source said, “but things may change in the future. Kim Jong-un’s immediate priority will be begging for rice for next year’s promised feast.”

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korean Heir Leads Funeral of Kim Jong Il

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In the News – North Korean Heir Leads Funeral of Kim Jong Il

PYONGYANG, North Korea December 28, 2011 (AP)

North Korea carried out a meticulously choreographed funeral for late leader Kim Jong Il on Wednesday and affirmed that the country was now in the “warm care” of his young son, extending the Kim family’s hold on power to a third generation.

Footage broadcast on North Korea’s state television showed Kim’s youngest son and successor Kim Jong Un walking next to his father’s hearse as it made its way slowly through cold, snowy Pyongyang. Dressed in a dark overcoat, he bowed his head slightly against the snow, and raised his right arm in salute.

Walking behind was Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law and a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission who is expected to play a crucial role in helping Kim Jong Un take power.

Tens of thousands of mourners stood in heavy snow as they passed by. Soldiers stood in lines with their heads bowed.

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AP

Kim Jong Il, who led the nation with an iron fist following his father Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, died of a heart attack Dec. 17 at age 69, according to state media. Kim Jong Un is already being hailed as the “supreme leader” of the party, state and army.

A private ceremony is believed to have been held earlier Wednesday in the inner sanctum of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace with Kim Jong Un and top military and party officials.

Foreign dignitaries in the city had been asked to gather at a sports stadium shortly before noon to be taken to Kumsusan to see the hearse pass at the start of the funeral procession through Pyongyang, according to a diplomat who asked that her name not be used due to the sensitivity of the details.

The young Kim made his public debut just last year with a promotion to four-star general and an appointment as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party.

But in the days since his father’s death, the campaign to install him as the next leader has been swift, with state media bestowing him with new titles, including “great successor,” ”supreme leader” and “sagacious leader.”

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Associated Press Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee and writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. Follow Jean H. Lee at twitter.com/newsjean.

Original article can be found here.