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Kim Jong Un Seen Trying to Signal Strength After Uncle's Execution

North Korean soldiers stand guard near the Chinese border town of Dandong on Sunday. Some say North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's recent public appearances suggest he seeks to project an aura of stability after the announced execution of his uncle (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images). North Korean soldiers stand guard near the Chinese border town of Dandong on Sunday. Some say North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's recent public appearances suggest he seeks to project an aura of stability after the announced execution of his uncle (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images).

North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un appears to be trying to project an aura of stability following the execution of his uncle, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The young leader, sometimes accompanied by his wife, has made a series of publicized visits around the country in the days since the announced Thursday execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek. State-controlled media on Monday reported that soldiers at a large military rally swore their allegiance to Kim.

"Kim Jong Un is trying to show that his leadership remains undiminished after the execution," Myongji University International Affairs expert Kim Seung-hwan said in an interview. "Many are speculating North Korean society would be unstable after Jang's execution, so Kim's trying to defy that."

Kim Kyung Hui -- Jang's widow and the sister of deceased leader Kim Jong Il -- seems to have retained the favor of her nephew as evidenced by her announced appointment to a government committee formed to organize the funeral for an important party official who recently died, according to the Times.

The international community is closely tracking events in North Korea amid worries that a possible abrupt collapse of the Kim regime or an internecine leadership struggle could lead to a power vacuum. There are widespread concerns about the risk of proliferation of Pyongyang's nuclear-weapon materials and about further armed confrontation with South Korea.

South Korea President Park Geun-hye on Monday directed the country's armed forces to be attentive for potential disturbances from the North, particularly along a contested western maritime boundary line, the New York Times reported.

"Given the recent series of incidents in North Korea, there is uncertainty over the direction in which the political situation will develop," Park was quoted by her office as telling high-ranking South Korean officials. "We cannot rule out contingencies like reckless provocations from the North."

The execution of Jang, who for a time was understood to have acted as a regent for Kim, is just the latest in a series of purges of the old guard that surrounded his father but have now seen their power reduced by the young ruler. Since the December 2011 passing of Kim Jong Il, five of the seven veteran officials who escorted his coffin have been dismissed, the Los Angeles Times reported separately. Additional executions are anticipated, according to the newspaper.

"He had to get rid of the grumpy old men," Seoul-based North Korea analyst Andrei Lankov said. "He couldn't be a boss with subordinates who are twice his age, who don't understand him and don't take him seriously."

In announcing the execution of Jang, Pyongyang justified it by accusing the uncle of attempting to usurp Kim's rule. A number of experts believe the Kim dynasty is actually hurting its long-term credibility by tacitly revealing there was a real challenge to Kim's leadership, the Associated Press reported.

Kim "has managed to tarnish his own image, look like a modern Caligula and give the lie to 90 percent of the bombast emanating from Pyongyang," University of Chicago Korea expert Bruce Cumings said.

"We now know for sure that the Kim regime is afraid of the emergence of a renegade insider who may attempt to take advantage of the North's economic problems and the people's yearning for a better life to seize power with military backing," North Korea expert Alexandre Mansourov wrote in an analysis for the website 38 North.

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