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Memorial service: North Koreans gather in a square in Pyongyang to mark the 10th anniversary of the 'Great Leader's' death. Photo: KCNA/via Reuters

Memorial service: North Koreans gather in a square in Pyongyang to mark the 10th anniversary of the 'Great Leader's' death. Photo: KCNA/via Reuters

Memorial service: North Koreans gather in a square in Pyongyang to mark the 10th anniversary of the 'Great Leader's' death. Photo: KCNA/via Reuters

NORTH Korea marked the 10th anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong-il yesterday with a memorial service attended by thousands and overseen by his son Kim Jong-un, state television footage showed.

In footage aired by KCTV, Mr Kim was shown visiting his father’s mausoleum and standing on a platform overlooking crowds of people on the grounds of the palace on a freezing day in Pyongyang.

Flags flew at half-mast as those gathered bowed their heads in silence before portraits of the country’s previous leaders, Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung.

Pyongyang has ordered a 10-day period of sombre remembrance for the late Kim Jong-il, often referred to as the “Great Leader”, with a ban on alcohol and any sign of joy such as laughter.

But it is the current Kim who, after 10 years in power, now commands their attention and loyalty.

Dismissed as too young and too inexperienced when he inherited the post of supreme leader aged 29 following his father’s sudden death on December 17, 2011, many thought he would not be able to keep the military and party in line.

But he has used a mixture of strong leadership, the impression of a ‘loving’ public persona and brutal oppression tactics to ruthlessly cement his grip on the country. Yesterday, he took the opportunity to further build up the cult of personality around himself.

“All people and soldiers should have absolute trust in the general secretary, have their fate and future completely entrusted to him and guard his safety and authority,” declared a front-page editorial in the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

“He is, indeed, the greatest man and the great sage of the revolution all the people on this land follow with their deep affection and sincerity,” the paper wrote.

It has been an eventful decade for Mr Kim.

He has had to navigate internal intrigues and gone toe-to-toe on the international stage with President Donald Trump, Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, and Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader.

He has also played rivals off against each other to win concessions and defied crippling international sanctions to continue to develop nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

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“He has tried to differentiate himself from the reigns of his father and grandfather,” said Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow specialising in security issues at the Centre for a New American Security.

This has included “legitimising his own leadership by establishing an ideological system of ‘Kim Jong-un-ism’ that is centred on ‘Our People First’, ‘Our Nation First’ and self-reliance,” she said.

But he also achieved things his father and grandfather were unable to, “things like developing advanced nuclear weapons, meeting a sitting US president and striving to build a modern, economically advanced country”, she added.

Unlike his father, Mr Kim has taken the time to cultivate a public persona of a “loving supreme leader who cares about his people’s welfare”, she said, even going as far as to cry while delivering a speech in which he admitted the shortcomings of his economic policies to date.

“At the same time, he has been using the same old brutal playbook to maintain power and control over officials.”

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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