For son, it’s worth the wait
Heir-apparent to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un is likely to gain immense strength over the main bureaus of the North’s powerful Workers’ Party within the next two to three years, solidifying his position as the nation’s next leader, according to a former deputy chief from the South Korean National Intelligence Service.
In a paper published yesterday, Han Gi-beom, who is now a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said it would be difficult for one power group to overturn Kim Jong-un once he takes power, although there may be some opposition during the process.
“Even after Kim Jong-il [dies], there is little chance that Jang Song-thaek and other officials in support of Kim Jong-un will betray him,” said Han, adding that the officials would rather wield power under the new leader than take a dangerous risk.
“Kim Jong-il’s health is a wild card and there is a high possibility that his power will be moved very quickly,” said Han in the paper, adding that it would take five years for the completion of the power shift from father to son.
Another researcher from the institute has said that Kim Jong-il is likely to play the director role in the first several years of the power shift, “with his son as the actor.”
“Kim Jong-un will concentrate on building up his leadership within the military as the deputy chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Worker’s Party for the next one or two years,” said the report, “and after that time he will make official his takeover of the party by being placed in a senior position of the party’s political organ.”
The paper added that Kim Jong-un may be made chairman of the National Defense Commission right after Kim Jong-il’s death, after taking up the first deputy chairman position of the defense commission, currently empty after the death of Jo Myong-rok.
Han noted the three officials propping up the hereditary succession: Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law and vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission; Choe Yong-hae, secretary of the Workers’ Party; and Ri Yong-ho, a military official who also shares Kim Jong-un’s position in the party.
The researcher said that the roles of the three are likely to have been neatly divided, with Ri helping Kim Jong-un gain power over the military, Choe acting as his personal secretary and Jang working as Kim Jong-il’s chief secretary to help with state issues.
Han said that the succession issue was probably discussed at length when Kim Jong-il was afflicted by a stroke in the summer of 2008.
“Political measures from North Korea beyond incidents like the sinking of the Cheonan or the attack on Yeonpyeong Island show that a new leadership, unseen before, is now intervening in state policies,” said the report, indicating Kim Jong-un’s strong influence on the recent provocations against South Korea.
“It is likely that North Korea will take part in [showing] that Kim Jong-un is a powerful player,” the paper added.
By Lee Young-jong [firstname.lastname@example.org]