North Korea has hit back at reports that its leader Kim Jong-un had undergone plastic surgery to resemble the country's founding figure and his grandfather Kim Il-sung.
Kim, in his late 20s, has always attempted to mimic his grandfather's dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances. The two also bear a striking physical resemblance, triggering speculations that Kim was not 100 per cent natural.
But the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) denied the report. "The false report [...] released by enemies is hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate.
The rumours are just a "sordid hackwork by rubbish media", according to the comment.
North Korean anger was caused by a Chinese report widely picked up by newspapers in the neighbour South Korea.
A diplomatic source told China's Shenzhen TV that's some North Korean official tipped him off over plastic surgery rumours during a visit to Pyongyang.
"Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency," KCNA said. "Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay."
Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, is revered as a sort of semi-God in North Korea. He is nicknamed "The Great Leader and is designated in the constitution as the country's "Eternal President".
Concerned and perhaps embarrassed over Shenzhen China report, China's official Xinhua news agency promptly issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting plastic surgery rumours.