News / Asia

North Korea Releases Photo of Apparent Successor

In this undated photo released on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, by Korean Central News Agency, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il, right, poses for a group photo with newly elected members of the central leadership body of the Workers Party of Korea and the part
In this undated photo released on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, by Korean Central News Agency, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il, right, poses for a group photo with newly elected members of the central leadership body of the Workers Party of Korea and the part

North Korea has released the first official photo of Kim Jong Un, the son and apparent successor of leader Kim Jong Il. The photo was released after a landmark ruling party meeting that appointed the novice politician to key party and military posts.

Kim Jong Un appears serious in the photo, sitting unsmiling in the front row of 200 senior North Korean leaders. The fleshy 20-something is two-seats away from Kim Jong Il, wearing a dark track suit similar to his father's khaki suit. The rest of the officials wear business attire or a military uniform.

The photo, published in North Korea's official newspaper, marks the end of a rare Workers' Party conference in which analysts had expected Kim Jong Un to be named his father's successor. But Gordon Flake, a Korea expert with the Mansfield Foundation in Washington, says the process is much more complicated than that.

"What we're seeing here is not the succession. What we're seeing here is the first public indications of the beginning of the process of potential succession," Flake says.  "But Kim Jong Il is still in power. And so this really is not an institutional rule. This is a personal family rule."

Military Promotions for Kim's Inner Circle

During this week's conference, Kim Jong Un and his aunt were promoted to the rank of four-star general, despite both having little prior military experience. Kim Jong Un also joined his uncle in overseeing a key defense commission.

The army, with more than a million members, has long been a linchpin of the North Korean state and Kim Jong Il further increased its importance following the devastating famine of the 1990s. Abe Denmark of the Center for A New American Security in Washington says giving the young Kim and his aunt and uncle senior positions in the defense agency is a way of legitimizing them in the eyes of the public and the government.

"When Kim Jong Il took power from his father, he relied on a lot of institutions that helped manage the state when he came up and that he got rid of a lot of those institutions as potential competitors for influence and power," Denmark said.

He said Kim Jong Il's recent promotion of the National Defense Council may be an attempt to rebuild some of those institutions to help with the succession.

Flake, of the Mansfield Foundation, says the overnight promotion of Kim's immediate family is bound to create tensions within the old guard, making an already volatile situation even more uncertain.

"I mean if there's any cause for angst in the last week, of course, it's for all these old generals who have now just seen six new four-star generals pop up, including a 27-year-old kid…who has no military background whatsoever," Flake said.

Economic Policy Could Divide Post-Kim Government

The inner workings of North Korean politics are shrouded in mystery, leaving analysts and even the North Korean people guessing about how the tensions could play out.

Choi Jin-wook, with Seoul's government-run Korean Institute for National Reunification, says the North's desperate need to boost its economy could play a key role in any internal power struggles. He says if Pyongyang adopts a reconciliatory approach toward South Korea for economic gain, the division between the military's old guard and the new political leaders could widen.

"If the military is opposed to the party's so-called reconciliatory policy toward outside world, the military might take a kind of provocative action against South Korea or outside world," he said.

North and South Korea held their first military talks in two years on Thursday, focusing in part on the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. An international probe blamed Pyongyang for the attack, which some analysts have suggested may have been orchestrated to help Kim Jong Un appear strong.

That theory is disputed, but analysts do agree that North Korea's ruling elite are unlikely to show any dissatisfaction with Kim Jong Il's leadership choices as long as he is still alive. After he is gone, there is little indication whether a young, inexperienced ruler can hold his own amidst a paranoid older generation.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More