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Experts: Kim Jong Un aims to step out of predecessors' shadows

By
Jennie Oh
Experts believe the young North Korean leader aims to build up his own military prestige by changing the date of the country's Army Foundation Date. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
Experts believe the young North Korean leader aims to build up his own military prestige by changing the date of the country's Army Foundation Date. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is attempting to step out of his predecessors' shadows by building up his own military might, South Korean experts said Tuesday.

This comes after the North's state-run media revealed that the regime had changed the anniversary date of the Korean People's Army's establishment, which previously fell on April 25.

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The Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that the historic event would be celebrated on Feb.8 from this year on.

The KPA was founded on Feb. 8, 1948, but the North's "Army Foundation Day" has been observed on April 25 to mark the formation of the prior "Korean People's Revolutionary Army" in 1932, under North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung.

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The army mobilized workers, farmers and students to fight against Japanese imperialism before Korea's liberation in 1945.

"It appears Kim Jong Un is trying to build up his own, independent regime rather than rely on past merits and the significance of the resistance against Japanese imperialism," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

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According to Chung Sung-jang, director of unification strategy studies at the Sejong Institute, the change of date generally reflects Kim Jong Un's own philosophies on the military and war.

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Since Kim took power in 2011, he has emphasized the significance of Feb. 8, visiting army bases and encouraging military exercises around that time, according to Chosun Ilbo.

Chang says the young leader has been trying to set his own military tradition that stands apart from the reign of his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather Kim Il Sung

"The differentiation lies in the confidence that he achieved full nuclear capability," he said, noting that Kim had emphasized the need for strategic weapons since he took over the rogue regime.

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Ahead of the Feb. 8 memorial next month, a Seoul government official said 13,000 troops and around 200 pieces of equipment were detected near a Pyongyang airport for what seemed to be a rehearsal for a military parade, Yonhap reported.

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