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Virus Puts Damper on Kim Jong Un’s Celebrations of Late Father

  • North Korea holds low-key events marking Kim Jong Il’s birth
  • Younger Kim has sought to play down predecessor’s legacy
Students participate in an event to mark the Day of the Shining Star in Pyongyang on Feb. 16.
Students participate in an event to mark the Day of the Shining Star in Pyongyang on Feb. 16.Photographer: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)​​​​​​

Fear of the coronavirus outbreak spreading into North Korea may be accelerating Kim Jong Un’s efforts to play down the legacy of his father and strengthen his own cult of personality.

Festivities to mark the anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s birth Sunday -- the Day of the Shining Star -- were noticeably more subdued than past years, with thinner crowds and fewer visiting dignitaries. While much of that presumably stems from strict outbreak control measures, the toned-down affair was consistent with the younger Kim’s push to move out from under his predecessor’s shadow and secure greater international legitimacy for the family dynasty.