North Korea displays leader's portrait beside predecessors for first time

19th expanded political bureau meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean media have published photographs showing leader Kim Jong Un's portrait hanging prominently next to those of his father and grandfather, in an apparent push to solidify his status as a leader equal to his forebears.

The photographs appeared to be the first time state media was publishing his portrait hanging beside those of state founder Kim Il Sung and his late father Kim Jong Il, who ruled the nation until his sudden death in 2011.

The photographs, taken at the opening of a new school training cadres for the ruling Workers' Party, showed giant portraits of the three generations displayed on the facade of the imposing structure.

In other photographs, Kim was shown speaking to aides, including the cabinet premier, in classrooms with the portraits of the trio hanging above the blackboard at the front.

Kim told the opening ceremony the location of the school was chosen as it was close to the palace where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state, "so that the great leaders can hear every word of even whispering students," the KCNA news agency said.

State media did not comment on the intent behind the display of the portraits or say if it had become the standard across the country for all public venues and classrooms.

The Kim family dynasty that has ruled North Korea since its founding after World War Two has sought to strengthen its grip on power by building cults of personality around itself.

Another recent move that appeared aimed at burnishing the image of Kim Jong Un was the release of an upbeat song praising him as a "friendly father" and a "great leader" in a music video of North Koreans from all walks of life belting out the lyrics.

There has also been speculation that state media's discontinuation of the term "Day of the Sun" to describe a holiday for the birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung was to avoid drawing attention away from the current leader.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Ed Davies and Clarence Fernandez)