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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora