North Korean citizens vow to implement instructions given in leader Kim Jong-un's New Year's speech during a rally in South Hwanghae Province, Sunday, in this photo released by the North's Korean Central News Agency. / Yonhap
By Kim Young-jin
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has followed tradition by sending candy to children on his birthday, which falls Thursday. But major celebrations are not expected ㅡ a sign he is still burnishing his personality cult.
The North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported that Kim, thought to be turning 30, sent the sweets to elementary school and kindergarten students as well as day care centers.
The station said this showed Kim's "paternal love" for the younger generation, in the latest in a series of moves to portray him as a people-oriented figure, cut from the same cloth as his grandfather, the late country founder Kim Il-sung.
Unification Ministry officials believe no special adjustments have been made to the calendar to reflect Kim's birthday, in contrast to the birth anniversaries of Kim Il-sung and late dictator Kim Jong-il _ celebrated with great pomp.
Analysts take this as a sign that he is still building his personality cult among the people as a premature celebration could cause grumbling among the populace.
The tradition of doling out candy began in the early 1980s under Kim Il-sung and was picked up by Kim Jong-il following the former's 1994 death. It was Kim Jong-un's first time with the tradition.
Candy reportedly included gum, cookies and caramel were packaged in 1 kilogram bundles.
While Kim has apparently tightened his grip on power with the country's successful long-range rocket launch last month, it is unclear what level of support he enjoys, especially outside Pyongyang, which is concentrated with elites.
The Swiss-educated leader has stressed the younger generation as shoring up youth support is seen as important to regime survival. In September, he passed a measure to extend compulsory education and has been stressing the need to catch up with the world in the fields of science and technology.