Kim Jong Un stealing deceased grandfather’s political title, North Korean observers say

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Dictator Kim Jong Un is using an esteemed political title once thought to “eternally” belong to his deceased grandfather.

North Korean media has referred to the dictator as “Great President” approximately 26 times in the last seven months — a political title that is, according to the nation’s laws, exclusive to the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

The communist government approved an amendment to the national constitution in 1998, declaring Kim Il Sung the “eternal president” and abolishing the office.

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Kim Jong Un

In this undated photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, attends a meeting of the North Korean ruling Workers’ Party’s central military commission in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

“Under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Korean people will hold the great leader Comrade Kim Il-sung in high esteem as the eternal President of the Republic,” the nation’s constitution reads.

Kim Il Sung’s son and political successor, Kim Jong Il, never claimed the title of “Great President,” presumably out of deference to his father.

Upon his death in 2012, Kim Jong Il was written into the national constitution as “the eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

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Kim Jong Il Kim Il Sung statues North Korea

People bow before the statues of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as the country marks the 25th death anniversary of Kim Il Sung, at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, North Korea. (KIM WON JIN/AFP via Getty Images)

The hermit kingdom’s media has increasingly used “Great President” to refer to Kim Jong Un over the last few years.

Kim Jong Un was referred to as “Great President” only four times in 2020, followed by 16 occasions in 2021. By 2022, he was using the title 24 times throughout the year.

The title use shows the dictator has a willingness to transgress established “eternal” protocols set by his father and grandfather.

North Korea Kim Il Sung

Marshal Kim Il Sung signing the Korean Armistice Agreement and the Temporary Agreement Supplementary to the Armistice Agreement at 10pm on July 27, 1953. Also pictured are, from left to right; Kim Du Bong, President of the Standing Committee of the Korean Supreme People’s Assembly; General Nam Il; and Bak Cheng Ai, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Korean Nodong Dang. (Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

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The Kim family has fostered a secular religion around their dynasty since the country’s government was formed in 1948. 

The nation operates under a uniquely manipulated form of communist political philosophy known as “juche” that places all functional power in the hands of a “supreme leader.”

State-controlled media and government communications bolster the Kim family’s status as virtual demigods, attributing them with unparalleled intelligence and a wide variety of skills.

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