North Korean Heir Has Weirdest Birthday Ever

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Kim Jong-Un, the son and presumed heir of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, may or may not have turned 28 on Saturday. No one can say for sure because his age and birthdate are tightly held state secrets. But if he did have his birthday, it would have been a lavish and bizarre affair emblematic of North Korea's strange political culture, the shaky path of dynastic succession, and the regime's obsession with cultivating a cult of personality. The Associated Press' Hyung-Jin Kim and Jean H. Lee report:

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 unidentified sources.

In other words, the leaders of one of the world's largest militaries are falling all over one another to see who can buy the shiniest gift, and the political leadership is pouring money into a national celebration, which is also highly secret for no apparent reason, instead of addressing the country's severe economic problems. So, just another day in Pyongyang.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.