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North Korea pardon convicts to boost new leader's image

North Korea issued special pardons for convicts yesterday in a rare move that appeared to be aimed at boosting the popularity of its young new leader Kim Jong-un as he attempts to fill his late father's shoes.

Efforts to show Mr Kim is firmly in control have provided a drumbeat of news reports in state media since his father, Kim Jong-il, died on 17 December.

North Korea's state television showed top military officers again swearing fervent pledges of loyalty, vowing to become human "rifles and bombs" to defend Kim Jong-un.

The amnesty, to start next month, is to commemorate what would have been Kim Jong-il's 70th birthday and the 100th anniversary in April of the birth of his father, North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung.

There was no word on what sorts of crimes would be pardoned or how many inmates would be freed.