Military pledges loyalty as N.K. leader marks father’s death

By Shin Hyon-hee
  • Published : Dec 16, 2013 - 19:58
  • Updated : Dec 16, 2013 - 19:58
This photo released by the (North) Korean Central News Agency shows thousands of soldiers gathering in the square of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, Monday, on the eve of the second anniversary of the death of former ruler Kim Jong-il. (Yonhap News)

Thousands of North Korean soldiers reaffirmed their loyalty to leader Kim Jong-un Monday on the eve of the second anniversary of the death of his father, former ruler Kim Jong-il.

The massive rally in front of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang was held in the wake of last week’s shocking execution of the young leader’s uncle Jang Song-thaek.

Top officials of the communist regime attended the event, including Choe Ryong-hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the (North) Korean People’s Army.

“Let’s hold great comrade Kim Jong-un in high esteem as the sole center of unity and leadership,” proclaimed a large banner which appeared on photos released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Other attendees included Gen. Jang Jong-nam, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, and Ri Yong-gil, chief of the general staff of the Korean People’s Army.

The embalmed bodies of national founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il are on display in the Palace.

Jang Song-thaek, who was the husband of Kim Kyong-hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong-il, was executed on Thursday after a special military tribunal found him guilty of treason.

During last year’s memorial ceremony broadcast live by state media, Jang was seen three seats away from Kim Jong-un, highlighting his clout as vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission and the regime’s second most powerful man.

Kim has since replaced a slew of other ranking officials, including the prime minister and chief of the general staff of the army.

On Sunday, the North Korean leader attended the funeral of Kim Kuk-thae, chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Control Commission, according to the KCNA. Kim Kuk-thae was the eldest son of Kim Chaek, who fought with national founder Kim Il-sung against Japanese colonial rule in the 1930s and ’40s, and died from heart failure at age 89 on Friday.

Accompanying him were Choe; Kim Won-hong, minister of state security; and Kim Ki-nam and Kim Pyong-hae, party secretaries.

State media, meanwhile, continued to report on Kim Jong-un’s public activity for a third straight day since Jang’s execution. He visited a military institute for design on Saturday.

On Monday Kim inspected a fisheries station and praised the manager and workers there for their high yield over the last six months, the KCNA said. The Rodong Sinmun, a party mouthpiece, ran 10 photos of Kim smiling widely, apparently to show that it is business as usual in the North despite outside speculation about instability and the inexperienced leader’s reign of terror.

By Shin Hyon-hee (