A massive 560 m slogan praising North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been carved into a hillside near a lake in Ryanggang Province. The slogan, which was identified in a satellite photo on Google Earth, reads "Long Live Gen. Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun of [North Korea]!"
Each letter measures 15 m by 20 m, about the size of a building.
The practice dates back to the 1970s, when North Korea carved slogans praising nation founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il into a famous mountain. It was led by Kim Jong-il, who is said to have stressed that it was important to let future generations know what great leaders their ancestors served.
Kim Jong-un has been striving for a more modern image, but apparently some old habits die hard. "Kim Jong-un takes after his father even in his penchant for damaging nature in order to perpetuate the cult surrounding the Kim family," said one former high-ranking North Korean official who defected to the South.
It is unclear exactly when the slogan was carved into the hillside. The Google Earth image was taken on Oct. 6. The area around the lake with the slogan is around 9 km south of Hyesan near the Chinese border. The huge manmade lake was created after a hydroelectric power station was built there in May 2007.
There are other signs that a personality cult surrounding the new leader is well underway. According to the Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang mouthpiece in Japan, North Korea recently published the first volume of a book about the various exploits of Kim Jong-un.
In August, a set of stamps were unveiled featuring the young leader, and the Daily NK, a website specializing in news about North Korea, reported recently that badges hailing Kim Jong-un had been made and are being distributed among the security forces.
On the other hand, state media reported on Monday that Kim visited the headquarters of the State Security Department in Pyongyang to mark the agency's anniversary and had his photo taken with top agents. It is rare for the state media to prominently feature the country's leader visiting the intelligence agency, and rarer still to show the faces of spies. "We are at a loss whether to view this as a radical change or a major mistake," a South Korean government official said.