[FOUNTAIN]Can Kim succeed Kim?“The son can continue the unfinished revolutionary feat of his father in the next generation.” Thus, Kim Il Sung hinted in the Korean Workers’ Party journal “Geunroja,” in August 1971, that Kim Jong-il would be his heir. Kim Jong-il was then 29 years old and director of the Workers’ Party’s culture and arts department. He was a faithful son. The badge all North Korean residents wear honoring Kim Il Sung was Kim Jong-il’s idea. He ordered the badges before the Fifth Party Convention held in 1970, intending to plant the ideology of Kim Il Sung’s supremacy firmly in the lives of North Koreans.
The father was satisfied with his son. Kim Il Sung said to Yong-ju, Jong-il’s brother, “The problem is that you are not intense,” and continued, “Jong-il’s merit is that he is intense.” The reason Kim Jong-il was able to gain victory in the power struggle with his uncles was because he was loyal and also firm of will.
In February 1974, at the age of 32, Kim Jong-il was officially named as heir. Kim Yong-ju then resigned from his position as the party secretary for organization. Back then, the media referred to Kim Jong-il as the “center of the party,” meaning he was the person in authority. Hwang Jang-yop, a former Workers’ Party secretary who defected to South Korea, said, “From February 1974 until July 1994 when Kim Il Sung died, the North Korea regime was a dual government of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il.” From the beginning, Kim Jong-il’s power was great as a result of his careful and thorough preparation for succession. For 10 years since he became a member of the Workers’ Party in 1964, he got rid of all his political enemies.
Thirty years have passed since Kim Jong-il inherited his father’s authority. He is now sixty-three, one year older than his father when he was designated heir. It is natural for him to be thinking about the next leader. Just in time, there have been reports that his second son, Kim Jong-chol, will be his successor. Jong-chol reportedly appeared at a greeting banquet held for Chinese President Hu Jintao during his visit to North Korea last month. There are unconfirmed rumors the process to name Jong-chol as heir have begun in North Korea.
One thing for sure is that Kim Jong-il will attempt a three generation father-to-son succession. However, can anyone guarantee this will work? Kim Jong-il not only inherited power but also obtained it through his own efforts. Compared to him, his three sons are all weak. They have no achievements deserving praise as national heroes. What about North Koreans? Can we assume they are thinking the same as thirty years ago? We are living in the 21st century.
by Lee Sang-il
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.