North Korea media say Kim Jong Un joins father in observing military drill

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NKorea media say Kim Jong Un joins father at drill

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s heir apparent observed military drills with his father, according to a state media report Tuesday, heralding a growing public profile for Kim Jong Un as he takes on a more prominent role in the reclusive nation.

The official Korea Central News Agency said in a dispatch that Kim joined his father, supreme leader Kim Jong Il, in a visit to a military unit and to observe a live-fire drill. The choice of a military unit, rather than an industrial site, for the first such report highlights the importance of North Korea’s “songun,” or “military first,” policy.

Kim Jong Un made his public debut last week after being promoted to four-star general and vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s central military commission. The events confirmed analyst speculation that he had been chosen to succeed his ailing father as eventual ruler of an impoverished authoritarian regime that pursues active nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea’s succession is being closely watched because of concerns over Kim Jong Il’s health. The 68-year-old is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 and regional powers are concerned about possible instability in the country were he to die without having a firm succession plan in place.

Kim Jong Il took over as North Korea’s leader in 1994 when his father died of heart failure in what became the first hereditary succession in the communist world.

Tuesday’s Korean-language report did not specify exactly when the visit took place. Also attending the event were top military officers and other ruling party officials including Jang Song Thaek and his wife, Kim Kyong Hui, who is Kim Jong Il’s younger sister.

Jang and Kim Kyong Hui are considered close to Kim Jong Il and are expected to play a key role in ensuring the succession process goes smoothly.

Kim Jong Un was only mentioned in the report as being among the accompanying officials. He was listed third after North Korean Premier Choe Yong Rim and Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army Ri Yong Ho.

Kim Jong Il expressed “great satisfaction at how all army units are strongly prepared to smash and pulverize any surprise attacks by enemies and protect the socialist homeland with an iron wall,” KCNA said.

He also had a photo session with participating army commanders and unit members, the report said.

The world got its first glimpse of Kim Jong Un last week, two days after North Korea held its biggest Workers’ Party gathering in 30 years. The younger Kim, believed to be in his late 20s, was shown in several group photos taken with his father and other party and military officials and published in the country’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

He also was seen in video footage of the party meeting broadcast on state television in which he was shown applauding with other delegates during a speech lauding his father.


Associated Press Writer Sangwon Yoon contributed to this report.

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