Kim Jong Il's personality cult declining for months

China and Japan alarmed by possible changes in power structure. 26, 2004

Seoul -- In North Korea, Kim Jong Il's personality cult has been declining for months. According to Seoul-based JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, unnamed sources in the South Korean military believe that Kim Jong-Il himself ordered the population to not to wear their Kim Jong-Il badges for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Kim Il-Sung's death in July this year and ordered the North's main producer of propaganda materials to stop manufacturing his badges late last year.

Yang Jong-Hwa, a spokeswoman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, confirmed the news saying that "North Koreans travelling to and from China, who formerly wore the badge of either Kim Il-Sung or Kim Jong-Il on their chests, have stopped wearing the Kim Jong-Il badge." Other South Korean media are reporting that business people and diplomats have also stopped wearing the badge.

The apparent scaling down of Kim's personality cult has led to speculation that changes may be taking place in the North Korean regime's power structure. This has set off alarm bells in neighbouring countries.

Sources in Washington suggest that a 10,000-strong PLA division was moved to the border but Beijing denied the report.

Japan is also preparing for the possible collapse of the North Korean regime. According to Japanese media, Tokyo already has contingency plans drafted ten years ago in case of such an event. However, Japanese officials have declined to confirm its existence whilst Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said room for dialogue remains.

Chosun Shinbo, a Tokyo-based publication run by the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, stated that the military and the civilian population are all close to their leader against what it calls US hostility.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have said that 130 North Koreans have asked for asylum in the South Korean Embassy in Beijing. Currently, some 300,000 North Koreans are thought to be living in China waiting to move to South Korea.

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