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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 05:16 GMT
N Korea denies portraits removed
Portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, at the People's Culture Center in Pyongyang - May 2004
Kim Jong-il's portrait hung here beside his father in May...
North Korea has denied that portraits of its leader, Kim Jong-il, have been taken down, calling such reports a US plot to overthrow its government.

The denial was reported by Chinese news agency Xinhua - one of the few foreign outlets working in Pyongyang.

Portrait of Kim Il-sung  at the People's Culture Center in Pyongyang - May 2004
... but had vanished in August
Last week, western diplomats said some portraits had been removed from public places in recent months.

But a North Korean official quoted by Xinhua said the reports were "groundless fabrication".

"It didn't happen before, and will never happen," foreign ministry official Ri Gyong-son, was quoted as saying.

"The words are an intrigue that the United States and its attaching countries want to overthrow the DPRK [North Korea].

"General Kim Jong-il is the fate of the Korean people and the DPRK's socialism. It is unimaginable that DPRK people and army can separate their fates from Kim Jong-il.

"It is nothing but stupid and ridiculous acts just like trying to remove the sun from the sky."

The reports that portraits of Mr Kim had been taken down added to speculation that the North Korean leader was scaling back on the cult of personality that surrounds him.

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.

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