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New N. Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with S. Korean delegation

Liu Xiaoming puts a finishing touch on his sand sculpture of the late North Korean leader Kim Jung Il on a riverside in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Monday.

Associated Press

Liu Xiaoming puts a finishing touch on his sand sculpture of the late North Korean leader Kim Jung Il on a riverside in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Monday.

PYONGYANG, North Korea — New North Korean leader Kim Jong Un burnished his diplomatic skills Monday, welcoming a private South Korean delegation as state media called him a "sagacious" leader and revealed a new title that gives him authority over political matters.

Kim has rapidly gained prominence since the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, on Dec. 17, and his brief meeting with a mourning delegation led by a former South Korean first lady and a prominent business leader shows Seoul that he is assured in his new role.

State media have showered Kim with new titles. On Saturday, the North referred to him as "supreme leader" of the 1.2 million-strong armed forces and said the military's top leaders had pledged their loyalty to him. On Monday, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper described him as head of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party — a post that appears to make him the top official in the ruling party.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency also called Kim a "sagacious leader" and "dear" comrade while reporting that he paid respects Monday to his father, whose body is lying in state at Kumsusan Memorial Palace. State media have already dubbed him a "great successor" and an "outstanding leader."

It was the fourth time the North's media reported that Kim had visited the memorial palace since his father's death, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.

Also on Monday, a South Korean delegation stood in a line on a red carpet and bowed during their visit to the Kumsusan palace, where Kim Jong Il's bier is surrounded by flowers and flanked by an honor guard.

Kim Jong Un gave the South Koreans his thanks after they expressed condolences and sympathy, the Korean Central News Agency said. The Unification Ministry confirmed the meeting in a statement.

The lead delegates were the widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, who engineered a "sunshine" engagement policy with the North and held a landmark summit with Kim Jong Il in 2000, and Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong Eun, whose late husband had ties to the North.

New N. Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with S. Korean delegation 12/26/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 26, 2011 10:02pm]
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