North Korean Heir Called "supreme Leader"

By Salon Staff

Published December 24, 2011 5:00PM (EST)

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea is calling Kim Jong Il's son "supreme leader" of its military as it speeds up the campaign to install the young man as the communist nation's next leader.

In a late night dispatch Saturday, state media called Kim Jong Un "supreme leader of the revolutionary forces" of the country. It says Kim visited his father's coffin with other senior military leaders and officials.

North Korea earlier called Kim Jong Un "supreme commander."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea vowed Saturday to uphold Kim Jong Il's son as "supreme commander" as the campaign to install the young man as the next leader of the socialist nation sped up one week after his father's death.

As the grieving continued for Kim Jong Il, state media also emphasized successor Kim Jong Un's bloodline and legacy in carrying out the Kim family claim to lead and protect the North Korean people.

Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s and was unveiled last year as his father's choice as successor, will be the third generation Kim to rule the country since its inception in 1948.

The call to rally behind Kim Jong Un, dubbed the "Great Successor" the day his father's death from a heart attack was announced, comes amid a dramatic show of grief across North Korea. The country is to remain in an official state of mourning until after Kim's funeral Wednesday and a memorial Thursday.

Footage from Associated Press Television News in the capital, Pyongyang, showed a throng of North Koreans climbing stairs and placing flowers and wreaths neatly in a row below a portrait of Kim Jong Il as solemn music filled the air and young uniformed soldiers, their heads shaved, bowed to the portrait with their eyes closed.

A sobbing Jong Myong Hui, a Pyongyang citizen taking a break from shoveling snow, told APTN that she came out voluntarily to "clear the way for Kim Jong Il's last journey."

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

But there are signs that the country is beginning to move on.

"Streets, buses and the metro are all crowded with people going to their work. They are not giving way simply to sorrow," the Korean Central News Agency said of Pyongyang. "They are getting over the demise of their leader, promoted by a strong will to closely rally around respected Comrade Kim Jong Un."

The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party, said in an editorial Saturday that the country would uphold Kim Jong Un as "supreme commander" with vows made in "blood and tears" before Kim Jong Il's body.

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

His 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 in September 2010. He had been expected to assume a number of other key posts while being groomed to succeed his father.

North Korea has emphasized the family legacy during the 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.

KCNA carried a Rodong Sinmun essay that quoted Kim Il Sung as saying after his son's appointment to lead the military: "I firmly believe that the entire army will thoroughly implement any order of Supreme Commander Kim Jong Il and remain faithful to him."

Among the mourners in Pyongyang was the youngest son of Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who is expected to take over the multibillion-dollar religious and business empire founded by his father in South Korea.

The Rev. Hyung-jin Moon helped carry a wreath to the main mourning site at Kim Il Sung Square in central Pyongyang. The American-born Moon had been in North Korea earlier in the month. The church has several business interests in North Korea.

The Korean peninsula has remained in a technical state of war since the Koreas' 1950-53 conflict, but two groups from South Korea have received permission from the South Korean government to visit the North to pay their respects, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Choi Boh-seon said Saturday.

One group will be led by the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, who held a landmark summit with Kim Jong Il in 2000, and the other by the wife of a late businessman with ties to the North.

In South Korea, huge balloons were sent across the border loaded with socks — a humanitarian gesture as North Koreans grapple with cold weather and shortages of fuel and heat. South Korean activists routinely send similar balloons containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

Citizens in Pyongyang, meanwhile, received a special gift from the late Kim Jong Il: loads of fish. State-run media said Kim was worried about the supply of fish in Pyongyang and had looked into the matter the day before he died.

Rodong Sinmun showed a photo of a woman covering her mouth in sadness and gratitude as she watched loads of herring and walleye pollack being distributed at a crowded grocery store where they were piled up in baskets.


Associated Press writers Foster Klug in Seoul, South Korea, and AP Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee contributed to this report. Follow them on Twitter at and

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