Speculation arises as North Korean media drops Kim Jong Il's title

Thursday, November 18, 2004

On Wednesday North Korea's official media dropped Kim Jong Il's honourific title "Dear leader", reported Japan's Radiopress. It was only days after the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that portraits of Kim Jong Il have recently been removed from public display in North Korea.

According to Radiopress, a Japanese news agency that monitors North Korea's radio broadcasts, the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station, as well as the Korean Central News Agency and other North Korean media, have stopped using the term "Dear leader" when referring to Kim Jong Il, the country's supreme leader. Now the media in North Korea only use the official titles "General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea", " the Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission" and/or "Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army" when referring to Kim.

Earlier Itar-Tass also reported that according to an unnamed foreign diplomat in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il's portraits have recently been taken down from public display secretly and without explanation. However, the portraits of Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, still remain, according to the same report. This report has been confirmed by some expatriates living in the country.

This recent development in North Korea has given rise to speculation among analysts, some of whom suspected that these may be a sign that Kim is losing power, or that a power struggle is going on among the top leaders of the totalitarian state. But most observers believe that the portraits were taken down by the order of Kim Jong Il himself, who might be trying to downsize his own personality cult. "We believe the change was made at his will to soften his image as a leader of a personality cult, although it is hard to determine what his real intentions are," said Shinya Kato, the editor of Radiopress.

South Korean officials are not yet speculating on the matter, saying the portrait removals "may be for various reasons."

North Korea is one of the few Stalinist states that still exist today, and the political control in the country remains tight. In recent years North Korea underwent several minor reforms that did not appear to significantly improve quality of life. It has also remained largely mysterious and secretive to the outside world, as few foreign correspondents are allowed to visit and stay in the country.


  1. Kim's portraits removed upon instruction from North Korean government, Itar-Tass, November 17, 2004
  2. James Brooke, Monitors of North Korean News Note Dip in Reverence for Kim, The New York Times, November 18, 2004
  3. Mystery as Kim title, posters go, CNN, November 18, 2004
  4. Kim Jong-il portraits reportedly disappear, JoongAng Daily, November 18, 2004
  5. North Korean Media Drop Kim Jong-il's 'Dear Leader' Title, The Chosun Ilbo, November 18, 2004
  6. Seoul denies speculation over N.K. leader's status. Korea Herald, November 17, 2004

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