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Kim Jong-un visits mausoleum of late leader to mark birthday

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a national mausoleum, as the country marks the birthday of Kim's father and former leader, the North's state-run news agency reported Friday.

Kim paid his "high tribute" to Kim Jong-il at the mausoleum at the stroke of midnight to mark the late leader's birth anniversary, called the Day of the Shining Star, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

"He entered the hall of immortality where Kim Jong-il lies in state ... (and) paid deep homage and made bow," KCNA said in an English dispatch.

A photo of Kim Jong-un and ranking officials' visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun released by North Korea's Korean Central Television on Feb. 16, 2018. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)
A photo of Kim Jong-un and ranking officials' visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun released by North Korea's Korean Central Television on Feb. 16, 2018. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The palace in Pyongyang is the mausoleum for the ruling Kim family, including the North Korean founder, Kim Il-sun.

A group of high-rank party officials accompanies the annual anniversary trip. Among them were Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the party's central committee, and Ri Su-yong, the committee's vice chairman for international affairs, the report said.

South Korea's unification ministry has predicted the North may mark the Friday national anniversary with modest celebratory events compared with the previous year's scale.

According to the report, no military officials accompanied Kim on the latest visit as they usually do for Kim's other public outings.

North Korea's Korean Central Television released several photos of the mausoleum visit, which showed images of who appears to be Hwang Pyong-so, a former top military officer who reportedly had been purged.

The person stood in the third row behind Kim, alongside Kim Kyong-ok, former first vice director of the Organization and Guidance Department of the ruling party, and Hong Sung-mu, also vice director of the Workers' Party of Korea.

Images of a party ceremony for the birth anniversary, released by North Korea on Thursday, also showed a person presumed to be the disgraced former top military officer.

Asked about the images, a South Korean government official said, "The person who showed up in the images does appear to be Hwang Pyong-so."

Given his location in the group, he seems to have been reinstated as a vice-director level official for the party, according to the official.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service has said earlier that Hwang was removed from his top military officer seat in an investigation starting last year and was undergoing ideological education at a party reeducation facility in Pyongyang.

Marking the anniversary of Kim Jong-il's birth on Friday, the Rodong Sinmun, the North's mainstream party newspaper, flaunted the former leader's nuclear achievement.

"The republic's victory of building a state nuclear force is part of (Kim Jong-il's) revolutionary accomplishment," the newspaper said in a column.

(Yonhap)
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