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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid