News / Asia

    Analysts Scour Kim Funeral Photos for Clues to Nation's Future

    North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un (C) bows during the funeral of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in this still image taken from video, in Pyongyang, December 28, 2011.
    North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un (C) bows during the funeral of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in this still image taken from video, in Pyongyang, December 28, 2011.

    Professional North Korea watchers are closely studying the photos and videos of Kim Jong Il's funeral in search of clues to how the transfer of power to Kim's son, Kim Jong Un, is proceeding.

    Their conclusion: So far it seems to be going smoothly.



    Scott Snyder, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, pointed out that Wednesday's funeral procession was led by the same people who were identified as North Korea's top leaders at a conference 15 months ago.

    "I think it’s important to recognize that, in comparison with the top leadership revealed in September of 2010, the only change that we see in terms of rank, hierarchy in connection with the funeral procession is that Kim Jong Il is absent and Kim Jong Un has moved up to take that role," said Snyder.

    Snyder said there still may be rivalries beneath the surface that have yet to appear.

    As the limousine carrying Kim Jong Il's casket made its way through Pyongyang's streets Wednesday, Kim Jong Un walked alongside the car's right front fender. Lined up behind him were his uncle and presumed protector, Jang Song Taek, and two other senior ruling party officials, Kim Ki Nam and Choe Thae Bok.

    On the left-hand side of the car were four top military officials, led by the armed forces chief of staff, Ri Yong Ho. Behind him were the armed forces minister, Kim Yong Chun, senior officer Kim Jong Gak and another officer whose face was obscured in the photos.

    Noticeably missing was Kim Kyong Hui, the sister of Kim Jong Il and wife of Jang Song Taek, who has been elevated to senior positions to help protect her nephew, Kim Jong Un. Analysts say her absence, though, may simply reflect Korean cultural traditions or have been a concession to the cold weather.

    The balance between ruling party and military officials suggests to some analysts that the major power structures in North Korea are working together to ensure a smooth succession of power - at least for now.

    But Snyder said there is still is potential for future disagreements over such issues as whether to institute Chinese-style economic reforms or stick to Kim Jong Il's policy of "military first."

    "I think there are a number of potential issues that could be divisive within this collective leadership. That is certainly one of them. Another one is the relative emphasis on the party versus the military as the major bureaucratic foundation for Kim Jong Un’s rule," said Snyder.

    Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said that under Kim Jong Il and his father, Kim Il Sung, it did not really matter which organization was ascendant because the national leader was in charge of all of them.

    But under Kim Jong Un, he said, organizational differences and priorities likely will be more important.

    "Clearly the military is the strongest because it's got the weapons. But as we’ve seen over the years in the Soviet Union and in Eastern European regimes, if the military is seen as getting too strong, then there may be actions taken, either purges or organizational changes to ensure that the other, less well armed parts of the government retain some control," said Klingner.

    If the analysts were unable to glean much from Wednesday's ceremony, they soon will get other chances. Snyder said he will be watching closely on January 1, when the North Korean regime traditionally issues a broad policy statement on behalf of its leadership.

    More clues may be dropped a week later, when North Korea celebrates the birthday of its new leader, Kim Jong Un.

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report uses education levels to determine the smartest and least smart states in the nation

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.