Seoul: What do you get the future leader of North Korea for his birthday? Sports cars, racehorses and yachts if you're a party apparatchik hoping to please the Swiss-schooled, 20-something 'Young General.'
But if North Korea is planning a big birthday bash for Kim Jong Un, it's keeping it well under wraps.
Unveiled to the world last year as leader Kim Jong Il's chosen successor to lead the communist nation, Kim Jong Un is believed to be turning 28 on Saturday.
However, secretive North Korea has never confirmed his age or birth date or even that he's Kim Jong Il's son.
Two 2011 calendars from Pyongyang obtained by The Associated Press do not show January 8 marked in red as a national holiday, as they do for the birthdays of his father and grandfather, the late President Kim Il Sung.
North Korea watchers, however, say party leaders will still probably line up to offer lavish gifts to Kim Jong Un, popularly known as the 'Young General.'
The country's leadership struggles to feed the population of 24 million. But sports cars, racehorses and yachts would not be out of the question - even perhaps an iPad for a young man said to favor technology, said Park In-ho, managing editor at the Daily NK, a Seoul-based Internet news outlet that focuses on North Korean affairs.
North Korean military chief Yi Yong Ho ordered a raft of birthday gifts for the young Kim and a special army task force was assembled to determine what presents to buy and how to pay for them, the Daily NK reported this week, citing
Birthdays are central to the mythology of the two men who have ruled North Korea with absolute authority since its founding in 1948.
Kim Jong Il's official biography says he was born in a secret anti-Japanese guerrilla camp high on sacred Mount Paektu in February 1942, his birth heralded by a new star in the skies and a double rainbow over the mountains. But some
say public records show he was actually born in the Soviet
Union in 1941.
The Kims' birthdays are considered the most important holidays in North Korea, even more significant than Lunar New Year, said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the private Sejong Institute think tank in South Korea.
North Koreans dress in their finest for the celebrations, donning military uniforms or traditional ''chosun ot'' dresses to dance in streets festooned with
banners and flowers and feast on state-sponsored gifts of food and liquor.
South Korean officials are watching closely to see how North Korea marks Kim Jong Un's birthday - the first since he made his public debut as heir apparent last year, and since tensions escalated between the neighbors when the North
shelled a South Korean island in November.
Last year, his birthday was treated as an unofficial holiday, with officials pledging their allegiance to the son in closed-door meetings, according to Seoul-based monitoring groups. The military, the ruling Workers' Party and other
state organizations quietly marked the occasion with sporting events and other celebrations, the Unification Ministry said.
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