North Korea takes down huge portraits of Kim Jong-un's dad and grandfather fueling rumors of his death
Massive portraits of Kim Jong-un's grandfather Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea, and father Kim Jong-il have reportedly been removed from the main square of Pyongyang, just weeks after speculation over the dictator's health. Although the efforts seem to be part of a major renovation in the region, the removal of the portraits has fueled further speculations that preparations are underway to install a portrait of Kim there instead.
Kim's official portrait was unveiled in November 2018 during a summit with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Pyongyang. The main observation deck used by the North Korean Supreme leader to watch military parades in Kim Il-sung Square was also removed as part of the renovation process, according to recent satellite imagery and pictures, NK News reported. The last instance when the portrait area in the square was altered was in 2012 when Kim Jong-il's portrait was added in the square after his demise.
Satellite images of the region from Monday, May 12, showed a large crane stationed near the observation area where senior officials usually watch military parades. The western side of the square also appeared closed to vehicular traffic. The recent refurbishing could also be linked to the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea scheduled on October 10 this year, according to the outlet.
The latest development in the hermit nation comes weeks after speculation about Kim's health after he disappeared from the public view for over three weeks from mid-March. Kim's absence from the state television led to widespread speculation of his possible death with some reports stating that he had undergone heart surgery and was in a critical condition at his retreat in Wonsan.
The hermit nation had quelled rumors of his death and ill-health by releasing images and videos of Kim at a red-ribbon occasion on May 1. The North Korean leader, however, appears to be out of action again as no reports of him have been heard ever since his event appearance. The latest reports state that Kim has gone to his Wonsan retreat again, according to satellite images of his boats spotted there. Multiple yachts were reportedly spotted in the past few weeks outside Kim's compound with another luxurious vessel spotted close to the villa.
It was reported on Friday, May 15, that Kim had fired his head of security and head of the country's military intelligence agency. He reportedly also removed the commander of the Supreme Guard, who had been responsible for Kim's personal safety since 2010. Insiders claim that this could be an effort to tighten his grip on power, according to reports.
"Last year, 80 percent of the politburo members were replaced and nine of 11 members, or 82 percent, of the State Affairs Commission, were changed," a source told the Mirror. "This indicates the generation shifts and (Kim’s) focus on performance-based personnel reshuffle. It can be seen that Kim has consolidated power in the country as well."