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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 13:07 GMT
Pictures of N Korea's Kim 'missing'
Kim Jong-il
The North Korean leader has been in power since 1994
Some portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il have reportedly been taken down in Pyongyang, news agencies quoted diplomats as saying on Tuesday.

The portraits were removed from some public buildings, the diplomats said.

North Korea is one of the world's most secretive states, and it is difficult to know if the reports are significant.

But South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that Mr Kim ordered the move himself, amid worries he had been "lifted too high".

Yonhap did not name its source, who was said to have good contacts in the North.

Such an explanation, if true, would square with other recent reports that the North Korean leader was scaling back on the cult of personality that surrounds him.

This is false information, lies. Can the sun be removed from the sky? It is not possible
North Korean embassy official
Portraits of Mr Kim and his father, Kim Il-sung, are ubiquitous in North Korea, where they symbolise the ruling party's grip over every aspect of peoples' lives.

An unnamed diplomat told the Russian news agency Itar-Tass that at receptions hosted by the North Korean foreign ministry, guests had recently only seen pictures of Kim Jong-il's father, Kim Il-sung, and a mark on the wall where a portrait of the North Korean leader used to hang.

"Only a light rectangular spot on the yellow whitewashed wall and a nail have remained in the place where the second portrait used to be," the diplomat said.

The French news agency AFP quoted a diplomat as saying that one place where pictures of Mr Kim had certainly disappeared from was the Grand People's Cultural Palace.

"In Pyongyang there is always a lot of speculation and on this question too, there is a lot of speculation," the source said.

The diplomat who spoke to Itar-Tass said that he understood that a secret edict had been issued to remove portraits of Mr Kim, but that no explanation has been given.

However, a Canadian tourist interviewed by Reuters on Tuesday said that he had seen plenty of portraits or Mr Kim around the city.

"Just yesterday, actually, I was in an office and saw the pictures on the wall," he said.

An official at the North Korean embassy in Moscow denied the reports about the portraits being taken down.

"This is false information, lies. Can the sun be removed from the sky? It is not possible," he told Itar-Tass.

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