North Korea’s Kim moves to anoint youngest son as heir

2 06 2009

kim-jong-un_sketch

Profile:  Kim Jong-un (Al Jazeera English, 3 June 2009)

Little is known about Kim Jong-un, the man apparently chosen as heir to North Korea’s dynasty. The 26-year-old was educated in Switzerland, but until recently he has not been known to hold any formal office in the North Korean government. No photographs have been released of him as an adult.

Because of his youth in a country which traditionally values seniority Kim Jong-un had been thought to be out of the running to take up his father’s leadership of North Korea, with analysts concentrating on his half-brother Kim Jong-nam and older brother, Kim Jong-chol. But a report in South Korea’s Yonhap news agency in January sparked speculation that Kim Jong-un could be named as heir.

The chatter about his possible succession increased after Kim Jong-un’s reported appointment to the National Defence Commission. The commission is the country’s most important government body, with Kim Jong-il as chairman.

Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea at The Australian National University in Canberra, told Al Jazeera that Kim Jong-un was likely to continue his father’s policies. “In a Confucian society the youngest son is the least powerful,” he said. “He is going to be loyal to his father. He is going to be obedient to his elder brothers”

“He doesn’t have a support base among military or public security. He is going to do what his father suggests for him to do. He is going to follow the policy both domestically and internationally, inter-Korean policy as well,” he said. Kim Jong-un is youngest son of Kim Jong-il and his late third wife Ko Yong-hui.

In 2003, a Japanese man writing under the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto wrote in his book titled ” I was Kim Jong-il’s Chef” that Kim Jong-un was his father’s favourite. But the death of Ko Yong-hui in 2004 appeared to put the younger Kim behind his half-brother Jong-nam in the succession race. However, Kim Jong-nam’s deportation from Japan in May 2001, and the middle brother – Kim Jong-chol’s – apparent “unmanliness” greatly improved Jong-un’s chances.

It is said that Kim Jong-un shares some of his father’s health problems and he is reported to be suffering from diabetes and heart disease due to a lack of exercise. Like his father, Kim Jong-un is said to enjoy popular culture, and is apparently a fan of US basketball.

Petrov suggested that Kim Jong-un’s European education could offer some hope for rapprochement with the international community after years of isolation.  “He was educated in North Korea and in Switzerland and although he didn’t have much exposure to his peers he is still probably more open-minded to the world and can be lured into some new arrangements for the Korean peninsula. “He has travelled a lot. He has met foreign people … His curiosity towards foreign proposals might lure the country out of its shell and open some avenues for productive and efficient dialogue,” he said.

Photo of Kim Jong-il’s Heir Apparent at Age of 16 Unveiled

kimjungunThe Korea Times (14 .06.2009) A new photo of Kim Jeong-un, 26, who has emerged as the heir apparent to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, has been unveiled in a Japanese newspaper. On the front page of Monday edition, the Mainichi Shimbun said that the photo shows him in his 16 years, when he attended a public school as seventh grader in Berne, Switzerland. He is one of his classmates in a group photo, which is confirmed to have been taken in June, 1999, the news paper said. He wears a black round T-shirt and a gold-color necklace with his hair cut short. So far his only photo circulated is of 11 years old.

The newspaper added that he attended the school as a false name of “Park Un.” He stayed in Berne from summer 1996 to January 2001, where he moved from Berne International School where his brother Jeong-cheol, now at 28, learned, according to diplomatic sources. According to his middle school records, he got enrolled as the seventh grader, equivalent to one grader of middle school in Korea, in August, 1998, after receiving extra lesson for German language during his primary school days. He quit the school in late 2000, when he was a ninth grader.

He never appeared at school one day after he said in a teachers room he ‘would return to home country tomorrow,’ the Japanese daily quoted a teacher in charge of Jeong-un at the school then saying. Earlier, Asahi TV unveiled a grown-up photo of Jong-un, resembling his father, which was immediately denied by a Korean in his 40s, showing his photo. The Asahi photo was from it.

North Korea’s Heir Apparent Remains a Mystery

By CHOE SANG-HUN and MARTIN FACKLER NY Times (June 14, 2009) …Analysts are divided over whether Kim Jong-un also attended the school in Switzerland. They say he was enrolled from 2002 to 2007 in the Kim Il-sung Military University, a leading officer-training school in Pyongyang, the capital, but was taught at home. The son, these accounts say, is about 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs more than 200 pounds. Mr. Fujimoto said in an interview that the young man he last saw in 2001 was stocky and athletic but not fat. He said Kim Jong-il dismissed Kim Jong-chol as “girlish” but openly complimented Kim Jong-un, saying, “That boy is like me.”

The sons lived a life few North Koreans could imagine: swimming pools, water fountains, bowling alleys, billiard rooms, inline skating tracks, a beach, Jet Skis and horses. An episode relayed by Mr. Fujimoto and often cited by analysts to illustrate Kim Jong-un’s sequestered existence, if not his leadership qualities, took place several years ago when the chef and Kim Jong-un were smoking a cigarette in a car. Mr. Kim, then 18, looked into the distance and, according to the chef’s account, said: “We are here, playing basketball, riding horses, riding Jet Skis, having fun together. But what of the lives of the average people?”

By Jon Herskovitz SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has told top officials to pledge loyalty to his youngest son, signalling his anointment as heir to the family dynasty that has ruled since the state’s founding, a lawmaker and South Korean media said on Tuesday. Kim, 67, is thought to have suffered a stroke in August that raised questions about his continued control. Analysts have said the North’s recent military grandstanding, including a nuclear test last week, may be aimed at helping him solidify power so he can name a successor.

North Korea has asked the country’s main bodies and its overseas missions to pledge loyalty to Kim’s youngest son Kim Jong-un, various South Korean media outlets quoted informed sources as saying. “I was notified by the South Korean government of such moves and the loyalty pledges,” Park Jie-won, a member of the opposition Democratic Party, said in a statement. He declined to name his source but the South’s Yonhap news agency said Park was among a group of lawmakers briefed on Monday night by the country’s spy agency about the succession plans.

Kim Jong-un, born either in 1983 or early 1984, was educated in Switzerland and intelligence sources have said he appears to be the most capable of Kim’s three known sons. Even by North Korea’s opaque standards, very little is known about the son, whose youth is a potential problem in a society that adheres closely to the importance of seniority.

The succession is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the highly secretive North, with Kim’s plans only known to his small inner circle. This recent round of reports have provided the most detailed information to date. Yonhap quoted an informed source as saying the request for an oath of loyalty came shortly after the nuclear test on May 25, which was hailed by the North’s propaganda as a crowning achievement in Kim Jong-il’s “military first” rule.

Powerful officials in Pyongyang, such as O Kuk-ryol, the vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission, and Choe Ik-gyu, the head of propaganda, were believed to be behind the younger Kim. Furthermore, Jang Song-taek, thought to be the acting ruler of North Korea due to Kim Jong-il’s illness and married to the dictator’s sister, has switched his support from the oldest to the youngest brother.

Leading South Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo quoted an informed source as saying: “North Korean leadership is educating senior officials at major security authorities with an emphasis on the justification of father-to-son succession over three generations.”

In April, Kim Jong-il put to rest any doubt about whom he sees as his second in command when he elevated his brother-in-law Jang Song-taek to a powerful military post, analysts said. Analysts said they see the energetic and urbane Jang, 63, as the real power broker after Kim who will groom the successor. Jang, who once fell out of Kim’s favour, has in recent year’s been Kim’s right hand man, they said.

Hankyoreh (“3RD HEREDITARY SUCCESSION OF POWER OF DPRK”, 2009/06/03) wrote that despite consideration of special conditions of the DPRK regime, a 3 rd hereditary succession of power is certainly an act of underdevelopment. Showing military authorities, the core power of DPRK, moving in strict order against outside threats is an efficient way for inner unity. Even if certain sanctions on the DPRK’s nuclear experiment are inevitable, the windows for communication shouldn’t be closed. Especially the theory on DPRK’s fall, which comes out to surface every time the DPRK is faced with problems, will only intensify mistrust between each other and worsen the situation. Our government should first urgently review the current DPRK policy.

Chosun Ilbo (“KIM ILSUNG, KIM JUNGIL, KIM JUNGWOON”, 2009/06/03) reported that in the short term, there is a great possibility the DPRK will be provocative externally for unification internally. In the medium term, the current government needs to review its DPRK policy. It’s becoming clearer that “denuclearization, opening, 3000” which means that ROK will fully support only if DPRK gives up its nuclear program and opens up, is not realistic. In the long term, we must prepare for insecurity within the DPRK, which might come after Kim Jungwoon’s succession.

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