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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid