Kim Jong Un is using new tactics to ensure that he is undisputed as the venerated leader of North Korea -- not his father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, nor his grandfather -- the Korea Times reported Monday. The 32-year-old leader has excised portraits and videos of both his forbears rom public spaces and events, replacing them with his image only.
At the beginning of July, North Korea opened a new airport terminal that, unlike the previous terminal, had no enormous portraits of Kim Il Sung, the grandfather and North Korea's founder.
In April, a girl band called Morangbong featured video footage only of Kim Jong Un during one of its concerts, even though the band previously included footage of his predecessors, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, for roughly two dozen concerts prior. The band is reportedly one of Kim Jong Un's favorites, and while it may hold a place in popular culture, it also serves to reflect certain political dynamics, experts noted.
"The Moranbong Band's concerts are not just for entertainment ― they have served as a means to propagandize the Kim Dynasty, and Kim Jong Un is seeking to change this propaganda style," Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told the Korea Times. "He is concerned that stressing the achievements of his grandfather and father too much may be unhelpful in solidifying his status."
Another expert, An Chin Il, the head of the World Institute for North Korea studies, suggested Kim Jong Un, who took power in December 2011, did not want to be overshadowed by his predecessors. He has also reportedly done away with wearing badges that carry images of his father and grandfather.
Propaganda to bolster Kim's image, often as one of a near demigod, has been as varied as it is absurd. In April, instructions were given to middle and high school teachers requiring them to teach students that Kim Jong Un was a child prodigy who not only could drive at the age of three but was also a gifted musical composer, the Telegraph reported.
"This tells us that his rule is not yet stable," Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Waseda University in Tokyo and an expert on North Korea, told the Telegraph at the time. "Not many people in the North have respect for Mr Kim, so children are being taught how great and powerful he is," he said, adding, "The children believe it, of course, but the teachers have no choice but to believe it."