Confusion Over Photo of N.Korean Leader-to-Be

The Mainichi Shimbun released this photo on Tuesday claiming the young man standing beside North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is his third son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un. /Yonhap The Mainichi Shimbun released this photo on Tuesday claiming the young man standing beside North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is his third son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un. /Yonhap

The Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun on Tuesday published what it claimed was a photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's third son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un. The picture, originally printed in the North's official KCNA news agency and the Rodong Sinmun daily on March 4 and 5, shows a young man standing beside Kim senior.

The Mainichi reported Kim junior is 167 cm tall, weighs 87 kg, and wears shoes with 5 cm lifts. The report drew massive interest because it would have been the first photo of Kim Jong-un as an adult to reach the wider world.

Sadly, it was not. A South Korean government official on Tuesday confirmed that the man in the photo is someone else. The photo shows Kim senior on a visit to Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex. The man in question wears a red tie, a white shirt, and a blackish overcoat and looks much taller and sturdier than Kim.

The official said the man "was also seen in other photos that were taken when Kim Jong-il visited Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex in February and December last year, and in March this year." Another official said the report was "definitely incorrect," adding, "it seems this man is not Kim Jong-un, but Kim Kwang-nam, a chief engineer at the ironworks."

Meanwhile, the Mainichi quoted Kim Jong-il as having said recently that while he implemented the "military-first" policy, his son should focus on an intelligence-oriented politics based on the State Security Department. "This means that Kim Jong-il is trying to consolidate his power by reinforcing spying under the supervision of the security department," the daily added.

A botched currency reform which caused unprecedented trouble for the regime was in fact orchestrated by Kim Jong-un, the paper said, but Pak Nam-gi, the director of the North Korean Workers Party's Finance and Planning Department, took the fall for it and was executed.

Earlier, the Mainichi published a photo of Jong-un as a student in Bern, Switzerland in 1999. It also said Kim junior was born on Jan. 8, 1984, not on Jan. 18, 1983 as previously believed.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 21, 2010 12:07 KST