Fear of flying? Not Kim Jong-Un

Fear of flying? Not Kim Jong-Un
File photo of N Korean leader Kim Jong-Un

SEOUL - A new photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un disembarking from a plane suggests he doesn't share his father Kim Jong-Il's near-obsessive fear of flying.

The ruling party's official daily, Rodong Sinmun, ran a large colour picture Wednesday of Kim stepping down the red-carpeted stairs from a civilian aircraft at Samjiyon, near the Chinese border.

It is believed to be the first picture of Kim travelling by air, something his father, whom he succeeded as leader in December 2011, resolutely refused to do.

Over the course of seven trips to China, including his last visit in 2010, as well as a month-long trip to Russia in 2001, Kim Jong-Il always stuck to his preferred mode of long-distance travel - a customised, armoured train carriage.

His choice was not just down to a reportedly deep-rooted dread of flying, but also fear of assassination.

Kim Jong-Un's grandfather, the country's founder leader Kim Il-Sung, flew regularly and the new photo of Kim disembarking reinforced efforts by the young leader to project himself more in the image of the grandfather than the father.

Kim Jong-Un bears a striking physical resemblance to the young Kim Il-Sung, which he has underlined with his style of dress and haircut.

Like his grandfather, he does not shy away from public speeches and is regularly seen hugging and posing for photos with soldiers.

Kim Jong-Il was far more aloof, and only spoke once at a major public event during his 17 years in power.

Kim Jong-Un's wife also has a far higher public profile than Kim Jong-Il's spouse, who was a totally anonymous figure.

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