North Korean state TV mentioned the late mother of new leader Kim Jong-un for the first time since he was publicly designated successor to Kim Jong-il in September 2010.
Korea Central TV on Sunday aired a documentary film about the young Kim, and his mother Ko Yong-hui was mentioned when the narrator underscored his loyalty to his late father.
“The Vice Chairman (Kim Jong-un) said he had once waited with his mother all night for the General (Kim Jong-il) to come home from a faraway field inspection on Feb. 16 (the late Kim’s birthday),” the North Korean narrator said.
He said Kim was moved to tears when he recalled his father and how he used to devote his life and family entirely to the military-first policy in an economically distressed era called the “march of hardship” in North Korea.
The communist state, which puts high priority on family background in classifying people, is believed to have avoided public mention of Ko before, because she was a Japanese-born Korean.
In contrast, Kim Jong-il’s mother, Kim Jong-suk, who was the first wife of Kim Il-sung, had been praised by Pyongyang as the heroine of the independence fight against Japanese colonial rulers.
Ko, born in 1953, emigrated from Japan to North Korea in the early 1960s and worked as a dancer in the Mansudae Art Troupe until the 1970s.
Spotted by Kim Jong-il, she began living with him from the mid-70s and died of cancer in 2004 in Paris, reports said.
Although the two were not wed, Ko gave birth to two sons, Jong-chul and Jong-un, and a daughter Yo-jong.
North Korea watchers interpret the mention of Kim Jong-un’s mother on national television as the first step toward idolizing Ko.
“Kim Jong-un’s comment on Ko through the media is a signal that Pyongyang will start idolizing Ko,” Ahn Chan-il, head of the World North Korea Research Center, was quoted by Yonhap News as saying.
“But North Korea will hide her background and highlight part of her life as ‘the mother of the leader,’” he said.
The late leader and Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, died of a heart attack on Dec. 17.
Immediately after his father’s funeral at the end of 2011, Kim Jong-il’s youngest and untested son Jong-un rose to power, gaining the title of “supreme commander” of the country’s 1.2 million-strong military.
By Kim Yoon-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)