Giant Kim Jong-il statue unveiled for his 70th birthday

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Media captionThe giant bronze statue of Kim Jong-il is revealed in Pyongyang

A giant statue of Kim Jong-il has been unveiled ahead of Thursday's celebrations of the 70th anniversary of his birthday.

This is the first bronze sculpture of the late North Korean leader.

The 6-metre bronze statue depicts him riding a horse next to his late father, Kim Il-sung, also on horseback.

The statues were unveiled in a ceremony attended by top military and political officials on Tuesday in the capital, Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-un, Mr Kim's youngest son and heir to the leadership position, was not present, although he reportedly initiated the building of the statue.

A series of commemorative items and tributes have been released since his death on 17 December of a heart attack at the age of 69.

These included a giant slogan carved into a mountainside, postage stamps, medals and gold and silver coins bearing his image.

He reportedly shunned the idea of the bronze statue in his lifetime, said the BBC's correspondent in Seoul, Lucy Williamson.

According to various accounts, Mr Kim reportedly told state officials in 1999 that he was not ready for the adulation before fulfilling his promise of building an affluent society, the Associated Press reports.

North Korea said on Wednesday it has awarded the highest title of Generalissimo to Mr Kim, the same rank as that held by his father, the country's founding leader.

The country is believed to be planning widespread celebrations on Thursday, also dubbed "the day of the shining star", even as worries continue over food shortages in the country, our correspondent said.

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