01/07/2013 01:11 pm ET

Kim Jong Un Sends Birthday Candy To North Korean Children In Honor Of His Day Of Birth: Report

In honor of his birthday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly treated the country's children to a whole lot of candy.

The state-run North Korean Central Broadcasting Station first reported that Kim used an aircraft to make sure all North Korean children, ages 10 and younger, received one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of treats in time for his Jan. 8 birthday, according to the AFP.

This marks the first time Kim has gifted candy on his birthday since he took power following the death of his father in late 2011.

The act of generosity is part of an annual tradition, started by Kim's grandfather Kim Il Sung, the Korea Times notes. The elder Kim initiated the custom of sending birthday candy to North Korean children in 1980 and continued the annual practice throughout his reign. Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, then took over the tradition when he came to power in 1994.

Kim accomplished the feat by airlifting and delivering the packages of candy, caramel and gum to all children who attend elementary schools, kindergarten and day care centers in North Korea, according to Yonhap News Agency. Kim reportedly chose to send the birthday treats by air because shipping routes may be affected by the cold weather.

While the birthday tradition could be just that -- a tradition -- the 2.2 pounds of treats may also mark an attempt by Kim to shape and maintain the image of a benevolent leader, IBK Economic Research Institute analyst Cho Bong-Hyun suggests. Last year, on his birthday, North Korea media aired a documentary praising Kim's military expertise that was seemingly meant to introduce the country to its new leader, the BBC notes.

In a surprise New Year's address, Kim called for North Korea to focus on improving its economy, which has struggled to keep up with its neighbors in Northeast Asia. Despite talks of economic reform, the country still still struggles to feed its population, especially in rural areas.



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