North Korea Hails Kim’s Son as ‘Supreme Leader’

Posted December 24th, 2011 at 2:35 pm (UTC-5)
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North Korea's official news agency is giving the country's new ruler a new title.

The Korean Central News Agency called Kim Jong Un the “supreme leader of the revolutionary armed forces'' in a dispatch late Saturday.

The report said the “supreme leader” visited his father's funeral bier with top military leaders and other top officials and “expressed profound condolences.”

Earlier Saturday, the official news agency hailed Kim Jong Un as “supreme commander” – the first use of that title, also used by his late father, Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Un holds the military rank of a four-star general, despite having little military experience and being in his late 20s.

South Korea announced it will send two groups to North Korea to pay respects to Kim Jong Il, who is said to have died one week ago. A unification ministry spokesman said no government officials will accompany those delegations.

Meanwhile, South Korean political activists launched several huge balloons intended to touch down in the North, carrying anti-regime leaflets and hundreds of pairs of winter socks, which can be exchanged on the black market for food. In the past, Pyongyang has threatened to launch artillery at people floating contraband across the border.

North Korea proclaimed the beginning of the Kim Jong Un era on Thursday, describing him as the “successor” of the nation's revolutionary undertakings “and leader of its people.”

An editorial in the official newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Kim Jong Un should move forward on a path of self-reliance while continuing the teachings of Kim Jong Il. It urged the nation to rally behind the young leader and faithfully uphold his leadership.

Kim Jong Il's death after 17 years in power sparked regional and Western concerns about the future of a country with a large army, a history of deep animosity toward its southern neighbor and broad nuclear ambitions.

In Seoul, President Lee Myung-bak told political leaders that the change of command in North Korea could result in increased flexibility in the two Koreas' relations.

South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator has arrived in Beijing for what South Korean media describe as an emergency meeting focusing on regional stability – in particular, North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

The spokesman in Seoul for the unification ministry, Choi Boh-seon. said the two delegations traveling to Pyongyang for Mr. Kim's funeral will include relatives of the late former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung, who began a process of detente with North Korea in the late 1990s, and the late former president of the Hyundai Group, Chung Mong-Hun.

After an historic summit between North and South Korea in 2000, it was revealed that Hyundai had helped funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to Pyongyang before the two countries' presidents met. Facing a prison sentence for his role in the controversial transactions, Chung committed suicide in 2003.