North Korea commemorated the anniversary of late leader Kim Jong Il’s birth today, four days after testing a nuclear weapon in defiance of the international community.
Kim’s successor and youngest son Kim Jong Un visited his father’s grave at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. Other state-run media released commentaries and dispatches on nationwide ceremonies in honor of the elder Kim, who died in December 2011.
“Our soldiers and people celebrated the birth of our great leader after we showed our strength and braveness with the successful nuclear test,” the KCNA said in a statement.
The Feb. 12 nuclear test, the third in recent years, came two months after North Korea launched a long-range rocket that prompted the United Nations to tighten sanctions against impoverished country. Since taking power 14 months ago, Kim Jong Un has sought to secure his legitimacy as third-generation leader by following his father’s military-first policy.
“In a hereditary regime like North Korea, it’s crucial to showcase the seamless transition of power, that Kim Jong Un is just as capable as his father,” said Jeung Young Tae, research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. “Kim Jong Un needed to create a battle myth for himself, so he conducted the rocket and nuclear tests as the ‘battles’ he won against world superpowers.”
While North Korea claims Kim Jong Il would have turned 71 today, his age has been a matter of dispute. Contrary to Soviet records which indicate he was born in 1941, the regime says he was born a year later at a guerrilla camp where his father Kim Il Sung was leading a rebellion against Japanese colonial rule.
North Korea’s State Stamp Bureau issued new postage bearing photos of the elder Kim in his childhood and university days, according to a Feb. 7 KCNA report. A 10-day film festival opened the same day showcasing a documentary about the leader, and a flower named after Kim is on display at an event in the capital Pyongyang, according to state media.
North Korea in December tested a rocket that South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin said had a range of about 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles), enough to reach California and beyond.
While the nation claims to have diversified its nuclear capability with the third detonation, South Korea doubts the regime has perfected the miniaturization technology necessary to develop a warhead, Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said this week.
South Korean activists today released leaflets near the border between the countries, criticizing North Korea and its leader for the nuclear test, Yonhap News reported, citing activist group Fighters for Free North Korea.
The protesters sent 200,000 leaflets in balloons together with 1,000 one-dollar bills and 500 pamphlets describing advanced standards of living in South Korea.
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