By Kim Se-jeong
A portrait of Kim Jong-un, the third son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, is ready for public distribution, according to a non-governmental group based in Japan.
Lee Young-hwa, president of "Rescue the North Korean People! Urgent Action Network" (RENK), told Yonhap News Agency Saturday that the regime has copies of the heir apparent's portrait ready, and "we assume that these will be distributed on Kim Il-sung's birthday, which falls on April 15." The late Kim Il-sung is founder of the Stalinist state and father of Jong-il.
"This means that the regime is getting closer to announcing Jong-un's succession," Lee said.
As the news of Jong-il's failing health was publicized last year, people grew curious in regards to who the next leader of the world's most isolated state will be.
Jong-un has emerged as a serious candidate, and indications have proven this to be true.
His birthday, which falls on Jan. 8, designated this year as one of North Korea's biggest holidays. Two other big holidays are Kim Il-sung's birthday and Kim Jong-il's birthday (Feb. 16), during which people get the day off.
Earlier, Won Sei-hoon, director of the South Korean National Intelligence Service, testified before the National Assembly that a collection of songs dedicated to Jong-un began to circulate around his birthday this year, according to lawmakers.
"We assess that Jong-un is now becoming involved in the decision-making process," Won was quoted as saying.
Last month, the Radio Free Asia also reported the regime began to restrict the use of the name "Jong-un," instructing people with the same name to change it.
According to Yonhap, propaganda posters on the streets of Pyongyang also indicate the third son's succession.
One photograph taken by a foreign visitor, who was recently in Pyongyang, is of a very symbolic poster, professing Jong-un's achievements last year.
The poster mainly depicts three things: fireworks from Kim Il-sung's birthday; the phrase "CNC" (computer numerical controlled) referring to a new initiative to computerize the industrial facilities that started last August; and a long-range missile that carried North Korea's first satellite in April last year.
Jong-un was believed to be involved directly or indirectly in all of these programs.
The poster is set up at numerous spots around Pyongyang, where the traffic of people is relatively more vibrant.
The portrait is expected to finally unveil his face, which has grown controversial among outsiders.
Two original photos ― one at the age of 11 provided by his former Japanese cook, and the other at 16 taken in Switzerland where he was schooling ― were circulated worldwide, but the third photo of him as an adult turned out to be false.