North Korea has stepped up security around statues and other larger-than-life monuments to the ruling Kim family, apparently out of concern that they might be vandalised by a disgruntled - and increasingly hungry - citizenry.
Citing its sources within North Korea, the Seoul-based Daily NK news web site said police "have been mobilised for night patrols" around statues dedicated to the three generations of the Kim family that have ruled the nation since 1945, while additional care is being taken across the country to protect wall murals and oil paintings in public places that extol their heroic achievements.
Guards are traditionally assigned to statues and other landmarks designed to unite the North Korean people behind their leadership on national holidays and anniversaries linked to the Kim family, but that protection is being stepped up.
"Agencies have constantly been saying 'Use lights to illuminate statues and paintings of the three generals of the Mount Paekyu bloodline [the Kim dynasty] and thoroughly care for them to ensure that hostile elements cannot damage them'," a source in Pyongyang told the dissident publication.
"There have been reports of incidents targeting these statues and monuments to the Kim family, particularly in the more remote areas of the country," said Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University and an authority on North Korea's ruling family.
"And, in comparison with the past, these incidents are becoming more frequent," he told The Telegraph.
"Younger generations of North Koreans have little respect for Kim Jong-un and we are beginning to see that come to the surface," he said.
People want food and better living standards; they do not care about nuclear weapons and missiles and they are asking why so much is being spent on them when they are hungry
"And local authorities have no choice but to increase security around these monuments because it could cost them their jobs - or worse - if such protests begin to spread."
Discontent with the regime may well increase in the coming months, after North Korea suffered a severe drought at the beginning of its crop growing season, which will inevitably have an impact on the harvest.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has already warned of "a sharp increase of food insecurity levels" and other agencies have warned of widespread hunger among the population. Pyongyang has also requested assistance from the UN to feed its people, a step it has not had to take for several years.
"Despite all his promises, Kim Jong-un has had no significant successes and the people know it," Professor Shigemura said.
"People want food and better living standards; they do not care about nuclear weapons and missiles and they are asking why so much is being spent on them when they are hungry."