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PoliticsNorth Korea

North Korea's former propaganda chief dies at 94

May 8, 2024

Kim Ki Nam was best known as the mastermind behind building the personality cult around the ruling Kim dynasty.

North Korean leader mourns death of ex-propaganda chief North Korean leader
Kim Ki Nam will be buried on Thursday, according to state mediaImage: Yonhap/picture alliance

North Korea's former propaganda chief, Kim Ki Nam, who is credited for his role in building personality cults around the country's dynastic rulers, has died at the age of 94, according to state media reports.

Kim Ki Nam had been receiving treatment since 2022 and died on Tuesday due to age-related illnesses and "multiple organ dysfunction," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the body of Kim Ki Nam at a funeral hall in the capital, Pyongyang, paid his condolences to his family, and looked at the bier with "bitter grief over the loss of a veteran revolutionary who had remained boundlessly loyal" to the regime, KCNA said.

Kim Ki Nam will be buried on Thursday and his funeral committee will be led by Kim Jong Un, KCNA reported.

North Korean citizens visit Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, where statues of former North Korean leaders -- the country's founder Kim Il Sung (L) and his son Kim Jong Il stand
Kim Ki Nam helped build the personality cult surrounding North Korea's Kim familyImage: Kyodo/picture-alliance

What is Kim Ki Nam's legacy?

A former secretary of the ruling Workers' Party's central committee, Kim Ki Nam is renowned for leading North Korea's key department for propaganda.

In the 1970s, he was the chief editorial writer of Pyongyang's official mouthpiece, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, before going on to work in leadership roles in the ruling party's propaganda departments.

State media on Wednesday described him as "a veteran of our Party and the revolution, a prestigious theoretician and a prominent political activist."

His work as the country's chief propagandist made him infamous in South Korea where he earned the moniker of "North Korean Goebbels," after Nazi Germany's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Kim Ki Nam was one of the seven senior officials who joined Kim Jong Un in accompanying the hearse of the late leader Kim Jong II following his death in 2011. He also led a North Korean delegation to South Korea in 2009 to attend the funeral of Seoul's former president, Kim Dae-jung.

In the late 2010s, the position of the regime's chief propagandist was eventually assumed by Kim Jong Un's powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong.

North Korea's new propaganda

mfi/nm (AP, AFP)