Think tank warns of a possible revolt in North

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Think tank warns of a possible revolt in North

After the death of Kim Jong-il, the leadership situation in North Korea is still shrouded in mystery, and there are differences in opinion as to how it will eventually all shake out.

The North’s inner circle of power, including the successor’s influential uncle, Jang Song-thaek, could possibly revolt against heir Kim Jong-un, triggering massive political turbulence in the communist country, South Korea’s government think tank said in its recent report.

The Korea Institute for National Unification, a state-run research center under the Prime Minister’s Office, released a report titled “2012 Speculation on North Korean Affairs and Inter-Korean Relations.”

This is the first time a South Korean state-run institute has released such a report. It was initially publicized by the JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC.

“Amid such unstable circumstances, where Kim Jong-un hasn’t built up his power base and political experience, a group of elite powers in North Korea might worry about the possible side effects of early succession for the youngest son,” the report said.

“His early succession could make North Korean people think the young heir is ‘too ambitious’ or ‘a bad son [who didn’t allow for a sufficient mourning period after his father’s death]’,” the report continued. “Or people could think Kim Jong-un should take responsibility for the failure of the North Korean economy caused by his father. All these scenarios can delay the succession.”

However, if the preparation for succession goes smoothly, Kim will likely be inaugurated as chairman of the North’s top decision-making body National Defense Commission and the general secretary of the Workers’ Party this April, when North Korea marks the 100th anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday.

Many analysts in the South speculate that the 20-something, untested successor would prefer collective leadership led by his uncle Jang and aunt Kim Kyong-hui, rather than lead the country on his own.

The report said collective leadership without a sole dictator could disappoint North Koreans who are expecting big changes this year, encouraged by predecessor Kim Jong-il’s oft-stated propaganda “2012 strong, prosperous country.”

So the young heir and his key power members may try to control people by providing temporary food assistance or unleashing a reign of terror.

North Korea won’t take a hard-line position in inter-Korean relations, the report said, because provocations against the South could trigger anti-North public sentiment from their neighbors. Instead, the North could choose to attack the South in cyberspace, causing internal strife during an election period.

When it comes to diplomatic relations with the United States, the report predicted that North Korea will show a conciliatory gesture to the United States, agreeing to suspension of its uranium enrichment program in an effort to obtain political and economic benefits from the North-U.S. diplomatic relationship.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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