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N. Korean leader sends sweets to kids to mark his birthday
SEOUL, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a bunch of candy to every young child in the poverty-stricken country to celebrate his birthday, the North's state-run media reported Monday.

   The (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station picked up in Seoul said Kim sent bags filled with candy and other confectionaries to children attending elementary school, kindergarten and day care centers.

   The presents mark the first time that Kim has given candy on his birthday after inheriting power following the sudden death of his father in December 2011.

   Kim's birthday falls on Tuesday, although the exact year of birth differs depending on the source. Pyongyang has officially said he was born in 1982 making him 31 this year, but Seoul's spy agency maintains he was born in 1984, while others speculated his birth year is 1983.

  
Kim Jong-un (Yonhap file photo)


The media outlet claimed that the gifts reflected the "paternal love" he holds for children and the desire to give top priority to the sharing of good fortunes with the future generation.

   It added that because of the onset of cold weather affecting shipping routes to some remote islands in the Yellow Sea, Kim ordered the presents be airlifted, which delighted kids and adults alike.

   Each present, usually wrapped in a vinyl bag, contains about a kilogram worth of candy, crackers, caramel and gum, and is delivered two or three days ahead of the birthday.

   The broadcasting station said children and their parents praised Kim's love for his people and proclaimed him to be a hero who can open a new era for the country.

   Related to the handing out of candy to children under 10, North Korean watchers in Seoul said it is part of a broader political campaign by the communist country's leadership to win favor from youngsters and their parents. Such a step can strengthen the young leader's relatively weak grip on power, experts speculated.

   The giving of candy was first started in 1980 by Kim Il-sung, the North's founder and grandfather to the incumbent leader. This tradition was adopted by Kim Jong-il when he took power from his father in 1994.

   "At present Kim Jong-un's birthday has not been declared a national holiday like that of his father and grandfather, but there seems to be a move to gradually highlight it to the public," said Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute.

   He said that the latest event is designed to build up loyalty among kids and youngsters who will lead the country in the future.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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