News / Asia

Rare Party Conference in N. Korea Raises Succession Questions

Multimedia

Audio

A big meeting of North Korea's only political party could herald the beginning of the succession to a third generation of the Kim family in the reclusive Communist state.

Announcment airing on state television
North Korea's state media are promoting the meeting, expected to be held around September 6th, through public announcements, airing on state television.

The announcement declares: "Let us meaningfully greet the Workers' Party of Korea Representatives' Conference as an auspicious event that will forever shine in the annals of our party and the fatherland."

It will be a rare event. The last time a similar meeting convened was in 1980. And the previous party representatives' meeting, attended by thousands, occurred in 1966.

Power and tranisition

In the intervening years, power has increasingly rested with the military - not the party - under the firm rule of Kim Il Sung and, since his death in 1994, his son, Kim Jong Il.

Balbina Hwang is a visiting professor at the U.S. National Defense University. She says moving the spotlight in Pyongyang back to the party is significant.  "The fact that they seem to be shifting the center of power, possibly, away from the National Defense Commission and the military and toward the Workers Party signifies, I think, that there is a very substantial succession and transition underway, institutionally," she said.

Establlishing a family dynasty

Many North Korea analysts expect Kim Jong Il's third son, Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be about 27 years old, will be among those gaining a party Central Committee post.

His father was given high party posts at about the same age and was groomed for decades to take control of the country.

North Korea has cultivated a personality cult around its first leader, Kim Il Sung, who is called the Eternal President, and its current leader. North Korea scholars say it appears likely Kim Jong Il hopes to make sure his son builds support and power within the elite and military to ensure a smooth succession.

Ensuring a smooth succession

A senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, Park Hyeong Jung, says the son might be named to oversee the "organization and guidance" department under the Secretariat.

Park says such a position would allow Kim Jong Un to make his own appointments, giving him an independent power base.

Park explains the younger Kim would then be able to examine and criticize every organization within the party, effectively allowing him to monitor and control the actions of the elite.

But Balbina Hwang thinks what emerges from the conference may not meet the expectations of outside analysts.  "I don't think we'll be satisfied with the outcome, meaning that, I don't think, they will necessarily make an announcement stating Kim Jong Un or specifying a specific position or title," she states.

She has little doubt Kim Jong Il is calling the shots, although Hwang predicts that before the son is firmly in power there will likely be some literal "bloodletting."

"There will be internal contestation over his legitimacy as the next ruler," Hwang says, "It's my personal belief that it is a done deal, in terms of what Kim Jong Il wants. And it is what Kim Jong Il is working very hard towards establishing."

She says the political jockeying as the son establishes his power could lead to purges and some executions among the North Korean elite.

Many North Korea watchers think time is running short for the country's absolute ruler. At the age of 68, he appears to be suffering from mounting health problems, and suffered a stroke two years ago.

That may have weakened his decision-making abilities in a country facing severe challenges: an economy near collapse, food shortages, tough international sanctions and, except for China, no significant remaining allies.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs