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NKorea's Heir Apparent Makes Media Debut

Sep 30, 2010 – 7:50 AM
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Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer Contributor

(Sept. 30) -- Chubby-cheeked with a tense expression, North Korea's heir apparent made his media debut today, with his secretive state publishing the first known photo of Kim Jong Un since childhood.

The 20-something leader-in-waiting is pictured wearing a black communist-style suit and sitting in the front row at an official state function, two seats away from his father, Kim Jong Il. The Kims are separated by a proud-looking general in full military regalia -- a symbol that the younger man is the current leader's chosen successor, with full backing of the country's military, according to the BBC.

The youngest of three sons of North Korea's "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Un was promoted to a four-star general earlier this week, paving the way for him to succeed his ailing father, who's believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008. Kim Jong Un would inherit the leadership of a nuclear-armed pariah nation, where a huge portion of its 24 million citizens are believed to be starving and where tensions with South Korea are at their highest point in decades.

For the first time in two years, low-level military officers from both countries met today in the demilitarized zone that separates them, to discuss border issues. The meeting lasted two hours, but no major action came out of it and no date was set for another meeting, CNN quoted South Korean media as saying.

At the meeting, South Korean representatives "strongly urged" the North to apologize for the sinking of the warship Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors last spring. Officials from the North responded that they don't accept the South's conclusion that a North Korean torpedo sank the ship, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Little is known of the young Kim, who's believed to have been born in the mid-1980s and had some private schooling in Switzerland. The photo published today in Rodung Shinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party, is believed to be the first public image of the son in at least a decade.
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