PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Korea announced today that Kim Jong Un has been officially named supreme commander of the military, further strengthening his authority after the death of his father, longtime North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
Officials and state media have bestowed on Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s, a string of titles as North Korea’s elite rally around him in the wake of his father’s death this month after 17 years in power.
But the title Supreme Commander – and its formal proclamation by the powerful Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party – is a clear sign that Kim Jong Un is fast consolidating power over North Korea. It’s also the latest step in a burgeoning personality cult around him.
Kim Jong Un’s age and inexperience have raised questions outside North Korea about his leadership of a nation engaged in delicate negotiations over its nuclear program and grappling with decades of economic hardship and chronic food shortages.
But the North has moved quickly to show the world a unified face.
Kim Jong Un should be “the only center of unity, cohesion and leadership” of the Workers’ Party, North Korea’s state media said, and the 1.2 million-strong military should uphold the “songun,” or military-first, politics laid down by Kim Jong Il.
The party said the country should unite around Kim Jong Un and strengthen “the monolithic leadership system of the dear respected Comrade Kim Jong Un throughout the party and society.”
An unannounced Workers’ Party meeting Friday proclaimed that the younger Kim “assumed supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army” according to a will made by Kim Jong Il on Oct. 8, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement early today.
The meeting of the North’s ruling party came one day after the official mourning period for Kim Jong Il ended and senior military and political officials publicly declared Kim Jong Un leader of the party, military and people at a massive memorial for his father.
Titles are an important part of North Korea’s efforts to link Kim Jong Un to the myth-building surrounding the Kim family legacy.