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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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