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N. Korean leader using group photos to show off his hold on power: observers

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is using the group photos he takes on his field inspections to show off his hold on power, Pyongyang watchers in Seoul said Sunday.

The observation was made by checking the North's media and related data collected by Seoul's unification ministry, which revealed Kim taking pictures on 20 of the 25 publicized visits he has made since Sept. 30.

This is a departure from his usual practice of engaging in group picture sessions only on key ruling party gatherings or after the successful launches of ballistic missiles and nuclear tests.

"In effect the number of times Kim took photos with people being inspected has doubled particularly in the last two months to around 10 times a month," a North Korean watcher said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) poses for photos with his troops.(Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) poses for photos with his troops.(Yonhap)
He added that when the leader visited a special forces battalion last Sunday and a civilian-military power generation station Tuesday, there was even a change in the usual protocol.

In the photo taken with troops, soldiers were armed with assault rifles, which are generally prohibited in his presence due to security reasons, while the picture taken at the power plant revealed Kim standing at the center of the last row, instead of front and center of the group, which is his usual position.

"Kim's interest in group photos seems to be aimed at highlighting that he is firmly in control of the country and to show he is a leader that thinks of his people," said Yang Moo-jin, a political science professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

Others said that Kim's surprise visit to a garrison on Kali Islet in the Yellow Sea, just 4.5 kilometers northwest of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, last week is an extension of the leader's desire to make a point that he is confident in his control over the country.

The islet is located just north of the tense sea demarcation line between the two countries. In November 2010, the North shelled Yeonpyeong leaving four people dead. The provocation marked the first time that the North directly conducted an artillery attack on South Korean soil after the Korean War (1950-53). (Yonhap)