Jang Song-thaek to get North’s No. 2 post: source

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Jang Song-thaek to get North’s No. 2 post: source

As part of North Korea’s effort to establish a third-generation power succession, Jang Song-thaek, brother-in-law of the communist regime’s leader Kim Jong-il, will be appointed to the second most powerful post in the ruling Workers’ Party, intelligence sources said yesterday.

Signs that Kim is preparing to name his youngest son, Jong-un, as his successor have been increasingly evident as the Workers’ Party gets closer to holding a delegates conference in early September. The last time such a meeting was held was 44 years ago.

Jang, the first vice director of the Workers’ Party with responsibility for the police, judiciary and other areas of internal security, is the husband of the North Korean leader’s younger sister. Jang is also known to have played the role of guardian to heir-apparent Jong-un.

“The party’s delegates conference is believed to be taking place on Sept. 6,” an intelligence source told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We have secured information that Jang will be named the secretary of organization during that meeting. He will also be elected as a member of the party’s decision-making body, or politburo.”

The secretary of organization for the Workers’ Party is one of the key posts in North Korea, and Kim Jong-il has occupied the position since September 1973.

“Jang will become the second most powerful man in the North,” said the official. “If the appointment is realized, Jang will manage state affairs and assist Kim Jong-un’s power succession.”

The source said North Korea is in desperate need to have a successor in place because of Kim’s poor health.

“But Kim Jong-un is young and he lacks achievements to back his rise as the next leader,” the official said. “That’s why Jang will be appointed to the key post to control the party and hand it over to Jong-un when the time comes.”

He added that South Korean intelligence authorities believe Jang is arranging the upcoming delegates conference.

Another intelligence source said Kim Jong-un will likely have a grand political debut at the conference, but won’t immediately become a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the highest organ of the party.

In addition to Kim Jong-il and Jang, three other members of the country’s power elite are expected to become members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the source said - Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly and the nominal head of state, Kim Yong-chun, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, and Choi Yong-rim, Cabinet Premier.

“Kim Jong-un will be elected as one of the 150 central committee members of the Workers’ Party, but it will take more time for him to enter the party’s core,” the source said. “The central committee members are naturally the senior officials of the party, so he will likely head a department inside the party.”

Traditionally, central committee members are ministers of the North’s cabinet and senior military generals with more than three stars, as well as heads of key party departments such as the organization department and the propaganda department.

Kim Jong-un will likely become the head of the organization and guidance department, sources said, as his father did when he was making his rise.

In July 1973, Kim Jong-il was named the head of the organization and guidance department of the Workers’ Party and then became the secretary of organization and propaganda in September of that year. In February 1974, he officially became the successor to his father.

If he doesn’t follow his father’s path, Jong-un could be named head of the military department of the party, which controls the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, sources said, pointing out that the post recently became vacant. The Chosun Central Television reported last week that Kim Song-gyu, who was the head of the party’s military department, died of lung cancer on Aug. 24.

Other important decisions will also be made at the September conference, sources said. The event will be the third of its kind, and North Korea observers said the communist regime saw important turning points when the previous conferences took place in 1956 and 1966.

Kim Il Sung formally purged his opponents during the first meeting and he became general secretary of the Workers’ Party during the second.

In addition to Kim Jong-un’s political debut, a massive generational change will likely be endorsed at the upcoming conference, observers said. The Workers’ Party has had no national convention since December 1993 and the upcoming conference will likely be used to fill up vacancies created by deaths of aged political heavyweights, observers said.

Of the 13 members of the politburo, only four, including Kim Jong-il and Kim Yong-nam, are alive. The other surviving members are in their 80s, and are less active in politics.

Senior military officials are likely to make their ways into the politburo and other key posts of the party, observers said.

The North’s Workers’ Party also had 11 secretaries to implement policies decided by the politburo, but only five (including Kim Jong-il) are alive today. Of the five, two reportedly have health problems, and North Korea observers said a generational change will also take place in the lineup of the Workers’ Party secretariat.

By Jeong Yong-soo, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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