North Korea has unveiled a statue of leader Kim Jong-il, probably the first in the communist country. "It is our highest privilege and good fortune to be able to unveil a bronze statue of our comrade commander for the first time in our country," Gen. Kim Jong-gak, a vice director of the People's Army's General Political Bureau, was quoted as saying by an army newsletter that also carried a picture of the statue.
The streets of Pyongyang are riddled with statues of former leader Kim Il-sung, but this is the first representing Kim Jong-il.
"There have been instances when loyal officials insisted on erecting a statue of Kim Jong-il, but Kim always declined," a senior defector who escaped from the North last year said. "He also initially rejected a proposal back in the 1980s to hang portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il side by side, which led to confusion among the public over which picture to hang on their walls.
A South Korean intelligence official said. "The emergence of statues of a leader signifies the end of his reign." Statues of Kim Il-sung began to appear at the end of his reign and the start of Kim Jong-il's leadership.
The bronze statue may be a project by his son Jong-un, who is widely expected to inherit the North Korean throne.