N. Korea's propaganda chief dead
Leader Kim Jong Un (C) and senior officials pay their respects to North Korea's former propaganda chief Kim Ki Nam, who died on Tuesday at the age of 94, KCNA reported. AFP

North Korea's former propaganda chief, credited with masterminding the personality cult surrounding the ruling Kim dynasty, has died, state media said Wednesday, with leader Kim Jong Un photographed bowing at his funeral bier.

Kim Ki Nam died on Tuesday due to old age and "multiple organ dysfunction", having been treated at a hospital since 2022, the country's official Korean Central News Agency said. He was 94.

Kim Jong Un visited the funeral hall early Wednesday morning, paid silent tribute and looked around the bier with "bitter grief over the loss of a veteran revolutionary who had remained boundlessly loyal" to the regime, KCNA said.

A wreath in the name of Kim Jong Un was "laid before the bier of the deceased", KCNA said.

Kim Ki Nam is best known for having led North Korea's key department for propaganda. In the 1970s, he was in charge of Pyongyang's official mouthpiece, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, according to the North.

He is credited with masterminding the cult of the Kim family dynasty, and Pyongyang's state media on Wednesday described him as "a veteran of our Party and the revolution, a prestigious theoretician and a prominent political activist".

An image released by the Rodong Sinmun showed leader Kim Jong Un, dressed in a dark suit, solemnly paying his respects alongside high-ranking party and military officials, in front of what appeared to be a flower-decorated bier.

The Kim dynasty, established by Pyongyang's founding leader Kim Il Sung, has ruled the impoverished, isolated nation with an iron fist and pervasive personality cult over three generations.

The family are revered in the North as the "Paektu bloodline", named after the country's highest mountain and supposed birthplace of the late leader Kim Jong Il.

In 2015, images in state media showed the late official Kim Ki Nam, in his 80s at the time, taking notes diligently in front of Kim Jong Un, more than 50 years his junior.

The late Kim Ki Nam "is the North Korean equivalent of Paul Joseph Goebbels," Ahn Chan-il, a defector-turned-researcher who runs the World Institute for North Korea Studies, told AFP, referring to the infamous chief propagandist for the Nazis.

"It is safe to say that the propaganda and agitation strategies of the Kim dynasty all came from Kim Ki Nam's mind."

Kim Ki Nam's role as the regime's chief propagandist was eventually passed on to Kim Jong Un's powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, in the late 2010s.

Her arrival at the propaganda department as its high-ranking figure took place in 2018, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

In 2009, Kim Ki Nam led a North Korean delegation to South Korea to attend the funeral of Seoul's former dovish president, Kim Dae-jung. During the visit, they laid a wreath signed by Pyongyang's then-leader Kim Jong Il.

Kim Dae-jung in 2000 made a historic visit to Pyongyang, where he met with Kim Jong Il, the predecessor and father of current leader Kim Jong Un.

During his visit to Seoul in 2009, Kim Ki Nam met with Seoul's then-president Lee Myung-bak.