Official says North Koreans honored to follow Kim Jong Un as next leader after father

Friday, October 8, 2010

Official: North Koreans will follow Kim Jong Un

PYONGYANG, North Korea — A top official told APTN on Friday that North Koreans will be honored to follow the youngest son of Kim Jong Il as the third-generation leader of the communist nation.

The remarks were the first official comment about the future of Kim Jong Un, who just last week made his public debut.

Yang Hyong Sop, a top official in North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, referred to the 20-something Kim as “the young general” during an exclusive interview with APTN.

“Our people take pride in the fact that they are blessed with great leaders from generation to generation,” Yang said.

“Our people are honored to serve the great President Kim Il Sung and the great leader Kim Jong Il,” he added. “Now we also have the honor of serving young Gen. Kim Jong Un.”

The Swiss-educated Kim Jong Un had been virtually unknown before he made his public debut last week — appointed a four-star general and vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s central military commission.

The promotions backed up speculation Kim Jong Il’s chubby-faced youngest son had been chosen to succeed his ailing father as eventual ruler of the impoverished authoritarian regime, which pursues active nuclear and missile programs.

The reclusive country opened celebrations Friday making the 65th anniversary of the founding of its communist party — starting with fireworks and ending with a huge military parade on Sunday.

Asked about the significance of Sunday’s 65th anniversary as well as Kim Jong Il’s re-election as party leader and the promotion of Kim Jong Un, Yang said father and son would lead their country to success.

“What I can tell you is that comrade Kim Jong Il and comrade Kim Jong Un will lead us to victory with their wise guidance, and our people are well aware of the significance of the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea,” Yang said.

The younger Kim will be the third generation of his family to lead the nation of 24 million. His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founded North Korea in 1948 on a policy of self-reliance called “juche” and built a cult of personality around himself and his son, Kim Jong Il.

Besides his ruling party post, Yang is vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it remains to be seen whether new leadership would lead to a change in the regime’s behavior. Gates spoke at a news conference with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Tae-young.

“I think it’s a good thing at this point of transition in North Korea that our alliance (with South Korea) is, in fact, as both the minister and I have agreed, perhaps the strongest it’s ever been,” Gates said.

The world got its first real glimpse of Kim Jong Un when his photo was published last week in state media and he was shown on television at the Workers’ Party convention, the country’s most significant political gathering in 30 years.

The 68-year-old Kim Jong Il took over as leader after his father died in 1994 in what was the communist world’s first hereditary transfer of power.

A fireworks display Friday in Pyongyang opened three days of celebrations to mark the 65th anniversary of the party’s founding. The festivities culminate on Sunday with a massive military parade in the city’s Kim Il Sung Square.

The fireworks show was attended by senior officials, including Kim Yong Nam, president of North Korea’s parliament, and Jang Song Thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, according to APTN footage.

North Korean authorities have said the celebration for this year’s anniversary will be the largest ever staged in the country.

Associated Press Writer Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.

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