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North Korea's longtime propaganda chief Kim Ki Nam dies at 94

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a funeral hall Wednesday to pay tribute to Kim Ki Nam, the North's propaganda chief who died at the age of 94. Photo by KCNA/UPI
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a funeral hall Wednesday to pay tribute to Kim Ki Nam, the North's propaganda chief who died at the age of 94. Photo by KCNA/UPI

SEOUL, May 8 (UPI) -- Kim Ki Nam, the North Korean official who oversaw the isolated regime's propaganda efforts and helped shape the cult of personality around the ruling Kim family dynasty, died at the age of 94, state media reported Wednesday.

The former secretary of the Central Committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea died Tuesday from multiple organ failure, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the funeral hall Wednesday "with bitter grief over the loss of a veteran revolutionary," KCNA reported.

"Kim Jong Un paid silent tribute to Kim Ki Nam who made contributions to the sacred struggle for the development of the WPK, modeling the revolutionary ranks on the monolithic ideology and the victorious advance of the socialist cause," the report said.

Kim was referred to in South Korean media as the "Goebbels of North Korea," after Nazi Germany's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He led the North's propaganda efforts for decades under all three generations of leaders from the Kim dynasty: founder Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong Il and current leader Kim Jong Un.

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An obituary in KCNA described Kim as a "prominent political activist who devoted his all to the sacred struggle for defending and strengthening the ideological purity of our revolution."

The former university professor joined the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party in 1956 and in the 1970s became editor-in-chief of the official party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, according to KCNA. In 1985, Kim became director of North Korea's Agitation and Propaganda Department, a role he held until his retirement in 2017.

Kim exerted "tremendous policy and personnel influence over the country's press, media, fine arts and publishing" and "served as the party's key author of political slogans, "according to North Korea-focused website 38 North.

He is widely credited with leading propaganda efforts in support of the hereditary succession of the Kim family, helping to lay out the framework for Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un to take power in 1994 and 2011, respectively.

In 2009, Kim led a North Korean delegation to attend the funeral of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who led Seoul's "sunshine policy" of engagement with the North and held the first inter-Korean summit in 2000.

The United States sanctioned Kim in 2016 for his role in North Korean human rights abuses.

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