There have always been connections between art and politics. Whether you scan the crowd behind Plato and Aristotle (where you'll see Ptolemy wowing a small crowd) or step back from Pablo Picasso
's "Guernica" in Madrid, you'll see messages subtle and overt. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that portraiture is telegraphing who North Korea
's next leader will be.
Homes and business establishments in North Korea tend to have two portraits on display: Kim Il-sung
and Kim Jong-il
. A third is now ready for public display: Kim Jong-un. He is Kim Jong-il's third son and is rumored to be next in line for the top position in the country, according to "Rescue the North Korean People! Urgent Action Network," which usually goes by the much more compact acronym RENK
. The group says that the portraits are ready to go, and "we assume that these will be distributed on Kim Il-sung's birthday, which falls on April 15."
Other signs that Jong-un is likely to take the lead next in North Korea also fall distinctly into the "lifestyle" category. His birthday, January 8, has been made a national holiday. This year, it was celebrated, at least quietly, with a collection of songs dedicated to him. Also, anyone who has the same name as the new leader has been instructed to change it.
Interestingly, the portrait will offer a first look at Jong-un for many, especially outside North Korea. So far, only two photos have been found: one at age 11 (furnished by his former Japanese cook) and another at age 16 (shot when he was in boarding school in Switzerland).