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Kim Jong Un: A dictator in the grip of his people?

KCNA - KNS via Reuters, AP & AFP - Getty Images

Photographs of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un released by the official Korean Central News Agency. Clockwise from top left: With members of the Western Area Aviation Club after watching a demonstration (picture released Jan. 28); With soldiers of the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su 105 Guards Tank Division of the Korean People's Army (released Jan. 1); Visiting a KPA unit at an undisclosed location (released Jan. 23); Inspecting a military unit at an undisclosed location (released Jan. 19).

As all politicians know, images matter. The way they look and the way they are seen to interact with the so-called ordinary people can make or break a politician's reputation.

KNS via AFP - Getty Images

Kim Jong Un greeting students during his visit to the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang. Picture released Jan. 23.

In the case of North Korea's fledgling dictator, Kim Jong Un, the imagery that has emerged in his first weeks in the job is notable for a change in mood. Photos show him displaying a warmth that was not often associated with his father and predecessor, the late Kim Jong Il.

As he tours facilities and poses for photographs, the younger Kim is often seen holding hands with - or being firmly gripped by - soldiers, generals and other people. In a report today, The Associated Press notes Kim's tactility and associates it with a desire to be seen as a man of the people:

While the late Kim Jong Il mostly stayed aloof in dark shades, his son holds hands and hugs his soldiers.

The style harkens back to Kim Il Sung, his grandfather and revered founder of the country and ruling dynasty, and may reflect an attempt to turn a corner on the periods of hardship and famine under Kim Jong Il, analysts say.

"He'll try to look comfortable among the masses. He'll try to form an intimacy with the people, perhaps more than his father did," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea professor at Seoul's Dongguk University. Read the full story.

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