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
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid