Newly-anointed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Monday in Pyongyang with a private delegation of prominent South Koreans, in his first public encounter with foreign visitors since the death of his father was announced last week.
The meeting brought Kim, 28, together with the widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and others in her group who entered the closed North to convey condolences over the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il. The mourners’ group also included Hyun Jeong-eun, the head of South Korea’s Hyundai industrial conglomerate.
Ahead of Monday’s high-profile meeting, official North Korean media announced that Kim had been appointed to the top post in the Communist Party. The party’s Rodong Sinmun (Newspaper of the Workers) referred to Kim Jong Un as leader of the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, one of the country’s highest decision-making bodies.
Analysts say Kim’s carefully choreographed movements in the past week are designed to show that he has inherited all of the key positions held by his late father.
Kim Jong Un holds the military rank of a four-star general, despite having little military experience.
In a dispatch late Saturday, the official Korean Central News Agency called Kim Jong Un the “supreme leader of the revolutionary armed forces.” Earlier, KCNA hailed Kim as “supreme commander” – the first use of that title, which was also claimed by his late father.
Official North Korean media proclaimed the beginning of the Kim Jong Un era Thursday, describing him as the “successor” of the nation’s revolutionary undertakings “and leader of its people.”
The reports said Kim Jong Un should move forward on a path of self-reliance while continuing the teachings of Kim Jong Il. They also urged the nation to rally behind the young leader and faithfully uphold his leadership.
Kim Jong Il’s death after 17 years in power has sparked regional and Western concerns about the future of a country with a large army, a history of deep animosity toward its southern neighbor, and holding broad nuclear ambitions.
A state funeral is set for December 28.