(AFP Photo/KCNA via KNS)
Tears of Joy in North Korea
Some 45,000 North Korean school kids, including 20,000 from across the country, have tearfully pledged loyalty to the country's ruling Kim family and its third-generation leader Kim Jong-un, vowing to become his "loyal youth army".
They gathered in the capital Pyongyang this week to mark the 66th anniversary of the Korean Children's Union. TV footage showed the giant Kim Il-Sung stadium packed with young children clapping and shouting "Mansei (Long life)!" to Jong-Un in unison, with many bursting into tears apparently overcome with emotion.
"Our only and greatest wish is that respected General Kim Jong-Un always remains sound and healthy!" a student leader said in a speech, to thunderous cheers from the crowd. "We are sons and daughters of great leader Kim Jong-Un!" the children -- dressed in school uniforms of a white shirt and red scarf or green military attire -- chanted in unison.
Banners reading "Thank you, respected General Kim Jong-Un" and "Let's be endlessly loyal youth army for respected General Kim Jong-Un" were hung at the venue overlooked by a giant portrait of Kim Il-Sung.
Jong-Un invoked his father and grandfather in addressing the children. "You are the honorable youth groups who grew up under the care of great Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung," said Jong-Un, dressed in a dark Mao suit with a red scarf draped around his neck.
"This is the greatest honor... you should be fully prepared to become competent revolutionary workers for the strong and prosperous nation," he told the hysterical children who constantly wiped away tears and chanted "Mansei!"
Thousands of goose-stepping students marched past Jong-Un and saluted him while the smiling leader waved back at them at the end of the ceremony. Jong-Un, believed to be in his late 20s, took over power after his father and longtime ruler Kim Jong-Il died in December. The Kim dynasty has ruled the impoverished but nuclear-armed communist state for more than six decades with an iron fist and pervasive personality cult.