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*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

N. Korean Leader Shows Special Care for His Alma Mater University

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been showing special care and consideration for his alma mater, the Kim Il-sung Military University, in what seems to be an attempt to soothe the military.

   The status and role of the North's military, once the backbone of the socialist country's power hierarchy, has been somewhat downgraded in the past several months due to the rise of the ruling Workers' Party and the Cabinet since the young leader took over the country last December.

   Specifically, the young leader is trying to raise the morale of the military since former army chief Ri Yong-ho, who graduated from the same university, was removed from all his official posts last July.

   Kim visited the university on its 60th anniversary on Oct. 29 and he and North Korean authorities presented it with various gifts. The North's rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly's Presidium announced a decree on Oct. 22 to award the university a Kim Jong-il Order. Three days later, on Oct. 25, a ceremony awarding the order was held at the university.

   The North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station and Radio Pyongyang reported that Kim also attended an unveiling ceremony of statues of late leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il held to celebrate the university's anniversary.

   The KCNA reported on Oct. 29 that the erection of the statues of the illustrious commanders at the university marked a great event reflecting the "steadfast will of all the service personnel of the Korean People's Army (KPA) to glorify the immortal Songun (military-first) revolutionary exploits performed by the generalissimos for all ages."

   Senior party and state officials Choe Ryong-hae, Hyon Yong-chol, Kim Jong-gak, Jang Song-thaek and Kim Yong-chun and Ryo Chun-sok, president of the university, unveiled the statues.

   Kim Jong-un said in a speech that the Kim Il-sung Military University was built and developed under the energetic leadership and warm care of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il for six decades.

   "The university has grown to be the nation's highest seat for military education and a prestigious, world-level university which has a long history and opened the heyday of its development," he said.

   He also had a photo session with other participants, teachers and employees of the university. Kim Jong-un waved back to the enthusiastically cheering teachers and employees of the university.

   The statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were erected at the university in Mangyongdae, regarded by the North as a holy place of the revolution.

   Kim Jong-un said the university developed into the highest seat of military education and the most effective and reliable military officer training center under the wise guidance of the "generalissimos."

   For the six decades since its foundation, the university has educated competent commanding officers who are intensely loyal to the leadership of the party and capable of fulfilling their role in the great war for national reunification, he added.

   He encouraged such officers, saying graduates from the university who constitute the backbone of the army and the core of the revolutionary armed forces are discharging their heavy yet honorable missions and duties of defending the socialist homeland.

   The day Kim visited the university was his first public appearance in 15 days, since Oct. 14 when he participated in a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of two revolutionary schools -- the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School and the Kang Pan-sok Revolutionary School.

   The reports came amid speculation linking Kim's disappearance with possible problems in the new regime. The young leader took over the socialist country in December following the death of his father Kim Jong-il.

   Ri Myong-su, the people's security minister, also attended the unveiling ceremony of the statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Ri had also been absent from public appearances for more than one month, raising speculation he may have political problems, such as internal strife among powerful members of the country.

   On Oct. 28, a banquet was given at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang to celebrate the university's anniversary.

   A speech was made by KPA vice-marshal Kim Jong-gak, the people's armed forces minister, who said Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il built a general center for training cadres of the revolutionary armed forces and developed it into the highest seat for the a military education oriented on juche, or self-reliance, and a world-class university.

   North Korea watchers in Seoul say Kim Jong-un's special consideration for the university stems from his intention to boost the downgraded morale of the military since the purge of Ri Yong-ho in July.

   Kim Jong-un attended a special class of the university from 2002 to 2007 after he returned from study overseas.

   Other watchers said the junior Kim is trying to check emerging power players who are graduates of the North's most prestigious Kim Il-sung University. Kim Jong-un also seems to be attempting to widen his rule over the country by instigating a "loyalty competition" between key officials from the Kim Il-sung University and the Kim Il-sung Military University.

   Most of the WPK or military key officials including Jang Song-thaek, Choe Ryong-hae, Kim Kyong-hui and Kim Ki-nam are graduates of the Kim Il-sung University.

   Meanwhile, Kim's wife, Ri Sol-ju, attended a concert with her husband, in her first public appearance in more than 50 days. Ri and Kim attended a performance by the Moranbong Band on Oct. 29, which was also held to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Kim Il-sung Military University, according to the KCNA.

   Ri had not appeared in public since Sept. 8, leading to speculation she could be pregnant or that the nation's military leaders disapproved of her active public role.

   After being first introduced by the North Korean media as the first lady in late July, the 23-year-old had often been seen accompanying her husband on inspection trips across the country until early September.

   During the Moranbong Band concert, "the performers sang high praises of the peerless Songun brilliant commanders who brought up the officers and men of the KPA to be loyal fighters defending the country, the revolution, socialism and the people's happiness by carrying forward the traditions of arms of Mt. Paektu," according to the KCNA report.

   "Kim Jong-un acknowledged the enthusiastically cheering audience and highly appreciated the successful performance which significantly decorated the 60th anniversary of the university," the report added.

   North Korea's state media said the university is the highest seat for the juche-oriented military education that embodies the idea and line of army building of generalissimos Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, and a pedigree establishment that has trained cadres of the powerful revolutionary army of Mt. Paektu.

   Late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung established the university on Oct. 28, 1952. According to reports, the late president chose the site of the university and visited it many times to give "valuable instructions for its development though he was busy with the post-war rehabilitation."

   The KCNA said the university could greet golden days of its development "under the wise leadership of Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army Kim Jong-un."

   In a related development, a "Mother of Revolution" mosaic portraying anti-Japanese war hero and Kim Il-sung's wife, Kim Jong-suk, was erected at the Kim Il-sung Military University on the occasion of its 60th anniversary.

   The mosaic portrays Kim Jong-suk, her face beaming with a broad smile, standing at the side of Lake Samji against the background of Mt. Paektu. An unveiling ceremony took place on Oct. 25, the KCNA reported.

   On Oct. 28, the Postgraduate Research Institute of the Kim Il-sung Military University was renamed the Kim Jong-il Military Postgraduate Research Institute.

   "Naming the postgraduate research institute after leader Kim Jong-il made it possible to glorify the immortal exploits performed by the illustrious commander of Mt. Paektu in army-building and develop the university into that of the great generalissimos training all-round military commanding officers," the KCNA said.

   "The order recalled that generalissimo Kim Jong-il energetically led the work for developing the university and saw to it that the postgraduate research institute was founded, ushering in a heyday of juche-oriented military education," it added.