He’s no il painting: Kim Jong-un follows in the footsteps of his father with first official portrait

Kim Jong-un‘s first state portrait has gone on show to the North Korean people as he seeks to build his personality cult.

Idealized portraits of Kim’s grandfather and father – the nation’s founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il – beam out as propaganda symbols across the isolated communist state. 

Now the heir has a portrait which can join their faces which are displayed in homes, offices and classrooms throughout the country.

Two massive portraits hung outside the Pyongyang International Airport as Kim Jong-un welcomed the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, on November 4

Two massive portraits hung outside the Pyongyang International Airport as Kim Jong-un welcomed the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, on November 4

Two massive portraits hung outside the Pyongyang International Airport as Kim Jong-un welcomed the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, on November 4

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un smile together as they stand in the lobby of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang today

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un smile together as they stand in the lobby of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang today

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un smile together as they stand in the lobby of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang today

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) visit the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) visit the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) visit the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (right), review a guard of honor laid on for his arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport on November 4

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (right), review a guard of honor laid on for his arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport on November 4

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (right), review a guard of honor laid on for his arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport on November 4

The current leader is seen regularly on state television with his trademark haircut and black Mao suit, but he is not portrayed in the same way, and no statue of him is so far known to exist.

That could be beginning to change, analysts said, after the visit of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel at the weekend.

When Kim met him at Pyongyang International Airport separate giant portraits of the two men hung on the outside of the building.

Rather than his signature Mao suit, the leader wears a Western-style suit with a spotted tie, as he smiles happily behind modern half-framed glasses.

‘It’s the first time that such a portrait was displayed in a public place,’ said Cho Han-bum, an analyst at the South’s state-run Korea Institute for National Unification.

Footage on the official Korean Central Television has previously shown a painting of Kim displayed inside the Workers’ Party headquarters alongside a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit by a senior delegation from Beijing in April.

The Cuban President (left) and North Korean leader (right) exchange a joke at a welcome performance in Pyongyang on Sunday

The Cuban President (left) and North Korean leader (right) exchange a joke at a welcome performance in Pyongyang on Sunday

The Cuban President (left) and North Korean leader (right) exchange a joke at a welcome performance in Pyongyang on Sunday

Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) and Kim Jong-un (right) raised joined hands during the welcome performance in Pyongyang on Sunday

Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) and Kim Jong-un (right) raised joined hands during the welcome performance in Pyongyang on Sunday

Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) and Kim Jong-un (right) raised joined hands during the welcome performance in Pyongyang on Sunday

But Cho said the public display indicated Kim appeared to be entering a ‘second term’ of his leadership, which would concentrate on strengthening his political authority and charisma.

‘The second term will focus on solidifying Kim Jong-un’s personal cult and the portrait can be seen in line with such moves,’ he added.

Kim is the third member of the family to rule the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the country is officially known, and inherited power in 2011 when he was still in his 20s.

At the time he was considered untested, vulnerable and likely to be manipulated by senior figures but he has established his authority at home through the ruthless purging of potential rivals.

This year, Kim made his international debut, meeting with leaders of China and South Korea as well as holding a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump – the first-ever between the two countries.

Symbolism and imagery are crucial to Pyongyang, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, adding: ‘Portraits, slogans and posters form the core of a message for a socialist country.’

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