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 Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid