N. Korea honours girl who died saving Kim portraits

SEOUL - North Korea has bestowed a posthumous award on a 14-year-old schoolgirl who drowned in a flash flood while trying to save portraits of the communist dynasty's late rulers, official media said.

Han Hyon-Gyong's heroism earned her the Kim Jong-Il Youth Honour Award, and her school will be renamed after her, the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Tuesday.

Her parents, teacher and four others including Han's youth league leaders also received awards, said the report seen Wednesday on the paper's website.

Han died on June 11 as she tried to save portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il from her flooded home at Sinhung county in the eastern province of South Hamkyong, it said.

As she was swallowed up by gushing floodwaters, the girl held the pictures wrapped in plastic sheets above the surface, the report said.

Rodong praised a system "which nurtures such children".

The Kim dynasty, which has ruled the country since its founding in 1948, is the subject of an all-pervasive personality cult.

There have been previous adulatory stories about flood victims endangering or sacrificing their lives to save such portraits.

In 2007 the official news agency said a farmer lost his wife and child to a landslide, but saved the pictures. A factory worker preserved the portraits but lost his five-year-old daughter.

The images of founding father Kim Il-Sung and his son Jong-Il are ubiquitous in North Korea, hung in homes, offices and public buildings.

They are required to be placed in the centre of a wall, which must have no other adornments or pictures, and worshipped as communist idols.

Kim Jong-Il died in December and bequeathed power to his son Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s.

Become a fan on Facebook