by Adam Levine
The North Korean government's efforts to craft an image for new leader Kim Jong Un is an endless source of fascination.
The leadership transition was in the works even before the sudden death of his father, Kim Jong Il, and the U.S. government is "watching this transition closely," according to Gen. James Thurman, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, in testimony to the House Armed Services Wednesday.
Thurman outlined in his written statement to the committee how North Korea was preparing for the transition "two to three years" ago by naming Kim Jong Un to government posts, giving him the rank of general in the Korean People's Army and "transferring responsibility to him for management of the country."
Thurman wrote that before his death, Kim Jong Il appointed regime elites loyal to the Kim family - with most of the appointees in their 70s or 80s - to Kim Jong Un's inner circle to "strengthen the new ruler's hand" and ease his transition.
But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the transition is how North Korea's government is trying to make the most of the fact that the new leader looks a lot like his revered grandfather:
"It also appears that that the regime is making a concerted effort to capitalize on Kim Jong Un's remarkable resemblance to his late grandfather, Kim Il Sung, North Korea's revered ruler from the post-World War Two era until his death in 1994," Thurman wrote.
"State-controlled media images have shown Kim Jong Un with swept-back hair and dressed in Maoist suits very similar to those popularized by Kim Il Sung - a carefully stage-managed effort to help the relatively inexperienced Kim Jong Un garner the same adulation the populace had bestowed upon his grandfather."
The leadership transition, Thurman adds, is "proceeding without discernible internal challenges" and with political and economic from the Chinese.