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Idolization of North Korea's previous leaders eroding under Kim Jong Un

Telltale signs of a political turn away from "military-first" policies are emerging in North Korea.

By Elizabeth Shim
Idolization of North Korea's previous leaders eroding under Kim Jong Un
North Korean soldiers sit in the shade near the North Korean city Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. Kim Jong Un’s frequent replacement of top-ranking military officers is an indication the leader is phasing out Songun, or “military-first” policies that were in place in the 90s. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, July 13 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is turning away from the "military-first" policies of previous decades, and the idolization of previous North Korean leaders is diminishing, according to analysts.

The recent evidence is coming from North Korea, where the opening of a new airport terminal and a state-held musical performance were marked by the absence of Kim Il Sung images, South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported.

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Pyongyang's airport has featured the portrait of the North Korea founder for decades – and it has been a hallmark and photographic point of interest. A July opening of a new terminal, however, included no images of Kim Il Sung inside the airport, although video of the event showed large images of the two former leaders erected above the crowd outside the terminal.

South Korean newspaper Herald Business reported a recent performance of the all-women band Moranbong on Monday also showed telltale signs of a political turn away from Kim Il Sung, as well as Kim Jong Il idolization.

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Video footage that accompanied the performance showed only images of Kim Jong Un, a significant departure from past performances that ran images of Kim Il Sung and Kim's father, the late Kim Jong Il.

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An anonymous source on North Korea told Munhwa Ilbo that Kim Jong Un's frequent replacement of top-ranking military officers is an indication the leader is phasing out Songun, or "military-first" policies that were in place in the 1990s.

The source said Kim's excessive demand of loyalty and shocking purges are part of his strategy to weaken the military's position in the state system.

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Jeong Sung-jang, a senior researcher at South Korea's Sejong Institute, said non-military bureaucrats now occupy directorships of the Korean People's Army.

Other signs indicate the elder Kims are not required the reverence of the past.

Herald Business reported Kim Jong Un has ceased wearing the loyalty badge featuring his father and biological grandfather since June.

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