PYONGYANG – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Thursday appeared in public for the first time since the death of his estranged half-brother Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia earlier this week.
A photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), and obtained by Reuters on Thursday, pictured Kim Jong-un looking sombre as he visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang on the birth anniversary of the late Kim Jong-il, father to the current leader and his exiled brother who was killed in Malaysia on Monday.
Feb 16 is known as the Day of the Shining Star and is the start of a two-day public holiday in the North, AFP reported. It is the second most important holiday in North Korea, after the April birthday of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, which is known as the ‘Day of the Sun’.
The Daily Mail, citing KCNA, said Kim Jong-un paid his customary respects to his father overnight. He also attended a large meeting a day earlier.
Meanwhile, North Koreans on Thursday lined up to laud their country’s rulers, making their way to a hill in the centre of Pyongyang where a giant bronze statue of Kim Il-sung looks out over the capital. An effigy of his heir, Kim Jong-il, stands next to the statue.
Thousands of North Koreans turned up at the hill to lay a flower, bouquet or basket – all featuring Kimjongilia, the red flower named after the late leader – and bowed, AFP reported.
Ribbons attached to the baskets read: “The great president Kim Il-sung and great leader Kim Jong-il will always be with us.”
The Kim family dynasty has ruled North Korea for three generations since its founding after World War II.
North Korea’s official media have made no mention of Kim Jong-nam’s killing in Malaysia and it is unlikely many of the attendees would have been aware of it.
He was reportedly killed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 while trying to catch a flight to Macau after being attacked by two women with an unknown poison. He died en route to hospital.
The assassination, if confirmed, could have been ordered over reports stating that Kim Jong-nam was readying to defect, analysts have said. It would be the highest-profile death under the watch of the North’s young leader Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-un is widely believed to have ordered the 2013 execution of his influential uncle Jang Song thaek.
– The Straits Times/Asia News Network