Portrait of supreme leader will cement Kim Jong-un’s authority in North Korea

THE official painting of Kim Jong-un, the new leader of North Korea, is expected to be released today in a sign that the secretive nation is keen to solidify the young general’s hold over the country.

Kim Jong-un, who took over as the country’s leader following the death of his father Kim Jon-il last month, has been a regular staple in the North Korean state media in recent weeks, and has even made his debut on a postage stamp.

Reports in South Korean media say Pyongyang’s premier Mansudae Art Studio created a Jong-un portrait in 2010; and it is believed it will be unveiled today, which is believed to be his birthday. However, it remains to be seen whether the portrait will be placed – next to those of his father and grandfather, Kim Il-sung – in every building in the country.

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North Koreans also show their loyalty by wearing pins of the Kims. But even today, most still wear Kim Il-sung’s visage pinned to their shirts, not Kim Jong-il’s.

The most important holidays in North Korea are the birthdays of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, and it’s likely that Kim Jong-un’s birthday will become a national holiday as well. Exactly when he was born has never been revealed, but it’s widely believed that he will celebrate a birthday today.

Meanwhile, the young leader appears to be fashioning himself as the reincarnation of Kim Il-sung, his grandfather and the nation’s founder, as he seeks to solidify his hold on the nation of 24 million.

Unlike Kim Jong-il, who sequestered himself for three years of mourning before formally taking up the mantle of leadership, Kim Jong-un is moving swiftly to demonstrate a decisiveness perhaps aimed at dispelling concerns about his ability to rule.

He is only in his late 20s and made his public debut as his father’s anointed successor just 15 months ago, far less time than the 20 years Kim Jong-il had to prepare to lead. With the world watching, Kim Jong-un has tread confidently down the “red silk carpet” laid before him by his father, as one analyst put it, using family tradition as his guideposts. Kim Il-sung has served as his main muse as he seeks to consolidate power and loyalty.

“The image of a young smiling Kim Il-sung is deeply engraved in North Korean people’s minds. It is the image of a young general who liberated the nation from Japan’s imperial rule,” said Ahn Chan-il, a political scientist.

Two years ago, so little was known about the young man that even the South Korean government spelt his name wrong. But now, his face – and his official portrait – are expected to become known the world over.