SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Thursday it will enshrine "eternal leader" Kim Jong Il's preserved body in the palace housing the body of his father, national founder Kim Il Sung, and labeled his Feb. 16 birthday the "Day of the Shining Star," deepening its veneration of the late leader as it links his son and successor to the family legacy.
The country will also erect a Kim Jong Il statue and set up portraits of a smiling Kim and build "towers to his immortality" across the country, North Korea said. "Shining Star" is also seen as a reference to Kim Jong Il's "military first" policy, which North Korea says his son Kim Jong Un will take up.
The North's state media have sought since Kim Jong Il's Dec. 17 death to show Kim Jong Un as a strong, confident military leader, but outside observers are watching to see if he can impose his will over the military and government as strongly as his father did during 17 years of absolute rule.
North Korea has quickly handed Kim Jong Un a slew of his father's prominent titles and repeatedly connected him with his father and grandfather in an effort to add legitimacy to the young leader. North Korea also has stepped up propaganda praising Kim Jong Il's works and vowed to uphold his policies in what is seen as an attempt to justify the hereditary power transfer.
On Thursday, the North said Kim Jong Il's body will be displayed at Pyongyang's Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the embalmed body of Kim Il Sung has been lying since 1995, a year after he died. Kim Il Sung is still known as North Korea's "eternal president." It was unclear whether their bodies would be in the same room.
The new name for Kim Jong Il's birthday, "Day of the Shining Star," is another link to Kim Il Sung, whose birthday is called the "Day of the Sun." ''Shining Star" also was the name given by North Korea to what it says was a satellite it launched into space in April 2009, but that the United States says was a long-range rocket test. The launch stoked regional tensions and earned North Korea international sanctions and condemnation.
The new measures reflect North Korea's "unanimous desire ... to hold the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il in high esteem as the eternal leader of the party and the revolution," the Political Bureau of the Workers' Party's Central Committee said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
The North's posthumous treatment of Kim Jong Il is similar to the treatment his father received, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
"The cult of personality surrounding Kim Jong Il needs to be on par with the fact that his body is treated in the same way his father's is," Yang said.
Associated Press writer Sam Kim contributed to this report.