Kim Jong-un’s Rise Marks the Beginning of Hereditary Transfer of Power

1 10 2010

SEOUL (Yonhap, 30 Sep.) — As widely anticipated, North Korea officially started a hereditary power succession this week when its leader Kim Jong-il named his youngest son a military general and its ruling party gave him key political posts during the biggest party convention in decades.

In the party conference held on Sept. 28, North Korea appointed its leader’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in reports monitored in Seoul.

The North Korean leader named his third son, believed to be 28 years old, as a four-star general a day before the party conference, confirming speculation that the heir apparent has now started the process of succeeding his ailing father. It was the first time the son’s name has been mentioned by Pyongyang’s state media.

Analysts said Kim Jong-un’s rise marked Pyongyang’s first step to officially put the prince in line to take over the family dynasty in what would be the second-ever hereditary transfer of power in communism. […] Little is known about Kim Jong-un, who was also named at the conference as a member of the party’s central committee, which the North has repeatedly stressed this year must be “protected with life.”

“As a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, Kim Jong-un will strengthen his grip on the military” that operates 1.2 million troops and forms the basis of the Kim dynasty’s power, said Yang Moo-jin, an expert at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. But Kim Jong-un was not included among the newly elected standing members of the Political Bureau of the party, suggesting he had some work ahead of him to complete the succession plan.

In a reshuffle apparently aimed at assisting the power transfer, Kim Kyong-hui, the 64-year-old sister of Kim Jong-il, also became a member of the WPK Central Committee, the KCNA said, adding that her power-holding husband, Jang Song-thaek, became a member of the Central Military Commission. Jang is already a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, whose decisions have overridden most of those of any other organ in the country since Kim Jong-il seized power.

Jang is also the Workers’ Party’s director of administration with responsibility for the police, judiciary and other areas of internal security – the second most powerful post in the ruling party. Jang did not receive a general’s post because he already holds the powerful title of vice chairman of the National Defense Commission.

Kim Jong-il made his sister, who oversees the North’s light industries, a four-star general on Sept. 27 along with his third son, whose two older brothers have apparently fallen out of favor over the years. The North Korean leader’s appointment of his sister to such a post backed speculation over those who will serve as the young Jong-un’s guardians until he builds up enough experience and power.

The promotion of Jong-un’s aunt as general also demonstrates Kim Jong-il’s wish to protect his son within the military and the party. The aunt and her husband, Jang Song-thaek, are known to be supportive of Jong-un as heir to the throne, and Kim seems to be relying more on family as his health wanes.

Notable among the profiles released by the official KCNA was that of Ri Yong-ho, chief of the general staff of the North’s Korean People’s Army. Ri, who was promoted to the rank of vice marshal, rose as a standing member of the Political Bureau along with three others, including Jo Myong-rok, a vice marshal who visited the United States as a special envoy in 2000.

Little is known about the man other than his service as commander of the capital defense forces before his promotion last year to his current post, which is equivalent to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in South Korea. Ri was born in the same year as the 68-year-old leader Kim Jong-il, according to the KCNA. The oldest among the four new members are Kim Yong-nam and Jo Myong-rok, both 82, thus making Ri one of the two youngest along with Kim Jong-il on the panel, according to the release.

“The Conference marked a significant occasion that demonstrated the revolutionary faith and will of all the party members, servicepersons and people,” the KCNA said, calling on them to continue to uphold the military-first policy chartered by Kim…

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