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Activist claims NK's heir apparent received plastic surgery six times

All Headlines 11:20 June 28, 2011

LONDON, June 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's heir apparent son, Kim Jong-un, has undergone plastic surgery six times to look more like his late grandfather and the nation's founder, the chief of a radio station specializing in North Korean affairs claimed Tuesday.

Ha Tae-kyung, head of Open Radio for North Korea, cited unidentified senior North Korean officials and claimed that the North's leader-in-waiting had the surgery operations between 2007 and 2010 before he officially debuted as successor in September last year.

Ha made the remarks in a speech on North Korea's power succession during international defense forum hosted by the London-based Royal United Services Institute.

Believed to be in his late 20s, Kim was given the title of four-star general and named the vice chairman of the Central Military Committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party in what was believed to be Pyongyang's first official steps to put him in line to succeed his father.

It is not the first time that Kim was rumored to have undergone plastic surgery. Rumors began after photographs of Kim looking chubby with similar facial features as his grandfather were released shortly after the political event.

Ha claimed that the surgery was aimed at creating an image similar to that of his charismatic grandfather and North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, to boost his position as the country's next leader.

The succession, if made, would mark communism's second hereditary power transfer. The elder Kim inherited power from his father, who died in 1994.

Ha also said that Pyongyang is working on consolidating the heir apparent's power after his leadership has been undermined following failed attempts to reform the impoverished nation's currency system in 2009.

The reform move is believed to have caused strong public backlash as it led to massive inflation and worsened food shortages.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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