SKorea: NKorea releasing songs, poems praising Kim Jong Il's son in succession campaign

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea is releasing songs and poems praising leader Kim Jong Il's youngest son as part of efforts to groom him as his father's successor, South Korea's spy chief was quoted as saying Thursday.

South Korean intelligence analysts believe that Kim is preparing to hand over power to his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un. Speculation about the succession has intensified since the 68-year-old Kim reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008. Kim Jong Il also took power from his father, Kim Il Sung.

Little is known about Kim Jong Un, including his exact age, though he is believed to be in his mid-20s.

South Korean intelligence chief Won Sei-hoon told a closed-door parliamentary committee meeting Thursday that North Korea has launched a propaganda campaign aimed at making its 24 million people adore the junior Kim, according to aides of two lawmakers who attended the session.

Won said North Korea has been publicizing songs and poems praising Kim Jong Un and holding poem-reciting contests, said Lee Kyung-jik, an aide to Hwang Jin-ha, one of the lawmakers.

North Korea is focusing on the succession issue because of Kim Jong Il's health, and the junior Kim frequently travels with his father on inspection visits to army bases and factories, Won was quoted as saying.

The office of the other lawmaker, Choi Jae-sung, also confirmed Won's comments. A spokesman for the National Intelligence Service, which Won heads, declined to comment.

North Korea is grappling with economic woes that have worsened after a botched currency reform last year and tension with the outside world over its nuclear program and the sinking of a South Korean warship in late March.

South Korea has accused the North of torpedoing the warship Cheonan and is seeking to have the U.N. Security Council penalize it. The North denies the allegation and has warned any punishment would trigger war.

The two Koreas are still technically at war because their 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.