North Korea reports "bright halo" over leader's birthplace

SEOUL Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:59am EST

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SEOUL (Reuters) - A "big and bright halo" floated above Mt Paektu, revered by North Korea as the sacred birthplace of leader Kim Jong-il, to mark his birthday on Wednesday, state media reported.

KCNA news agency, the secretive state's main news outlet and renowned for its colorful propaganda, said the "mysterious natural wonder" occurred at the break of dawn.

"The bright sun rose up, throwing its brilliant rays and the area of the Paektusan Secret Camp turned into a fascinating picturesque of spring. Then rarely big and bright halo persisted in the sky above Jong Il Peak for an hour, starting at 09:30," it said.

North Korean history books state Kim was born in a guerrilla camp in the thick forest of the mountain. Historians say it is more likely Kim, 69, was born in the Soviet Union where his father trained as anti-Japanese guerilla.

There has been speculation that the volcanic mountain, dormant for a century on what is now the border between the North and China, may be showing signs of renewed activity.

Some North Korea watchers say officials in Pyongyang are horrified by the prospect of any kind of renewed activity, or worse an eruption, that could destroy Kim's legendary birthplace.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Daniel Magnowski)

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