Tokyo - North Korea faces serious financial difficulties after spending US$100 million (S$121 million) building a personality cult around late leader Kim Jong-Il, the Chosun Ilbo reports.
North Korean authorities spent US$10 million on a 23-metre statue of Kim in the capital Pyongyang in April, the South Korean newspaper wrote on its website. Seven similar statues costing a total of US$50 million have been built around the country since Kim died in December 2011, according to the Daily Telegraph.
North Korea also spent US$25 million inscribing his name on 3,200 'Towers of Eternal Life', at crossroads around the country.
The country's military leadership has been trying to put Kim Jong Il's popularity on a par with his father Kim Il-Sung who led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its foundation in 1948 until his death in 1994. It spent US$20 million on 20 million portraits and US$1 million on badges of the two Kims.
North Koreans working overseas are being asked to donate US$150 each to pay for the memorials. The country is also borrowing money at rates as high as 40 per cent from Russian and Asian banks and European loan sharks, the Chosun Ilbo says.
"If it doesn't have the money, the regime should stop building statues," a North Korean defector told the paper "Instead it's resorting to extortion."
Kim Jong-Un became Supreme Leader following his father's death. Analysts say attempts to build a personality cult around the family are intended to shore-up public support for him.
"Kim Il-sung is the brand," said Mr Bradley K Martin, author of Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. "Life in North Korea improved while he was running the country and got worse under his son Kim Jong-il. People remember that, so the boy leader is being cast as the spitting image of his grandfather."
Kim Jong-Un is the youngest of three brothers and, at 29, the world's youngest statesman.