Jong-un leans on father’s generation of loyalists

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Jong-un leans on father’s generation of loyalists

North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un is increasingly relying on second-generation members of the country’s elite, whose parents were loyalists of his late grandfather, an analysis by the South Korean government showed.

Also, Kim made far fewer public appearances last year compared to 2013 due to health problems, according to the Ministry of Unification. In 2014, Kim attended 172 public events, 17.7 percent lower than in 2013, the ministry said.

The ministry said Kim’s seclusion for about 40 days due to an ankle problem contributed to the fall in public activities.

After attending a concert on Sept. 3, 2014, Kim disappeared from public view until he made a comeback on Oct. 14 to tour a housing complex for scientists. South Korean intelligence authorities have said Kim underwent surgery on his ankle.

According to the ministry, so-called second-generation partisan fighters increasingly accompanied Kim after his comeback in October.

Kim Il Sung, the late founder of North Korea and grandfather of the current leader, led an anti-Japanese partisan militia in Manchuria in the 1930s, and his comrades served key posts in the North Korean leadership. They also played an important role in helping his son Kim Jong-il, the late father of Kim Jong-un, to inherit power.

According to the South’s Unification Ministry, Choe Ryong-hae, a secretary of the Workers’ Party, accompanied Kim Jong-un on 28 percent of his public activities from January until his seclusion in September. After Kim resumed his public activities, Choe accompanied him on 50 percent of them.

Choe is the son of Choe Hyon, who served as minister of the North’s armed forces from 1968 until 1976. He was one of the closest comrades of Kim Il Sung.

The ministry said another son of Kim Il Sung’s comrades, O Il-jong, is also seen frequently with Kim Jong-un. O is the son of O Jin-wu, one of Kim Il Sung’s most loyal subordinates who served as minister of the armed forces from 1976 until his death in 1995.

O Il-jong, in charge of the military affairs department of the Workers’ Party, was only seen at a few public appearances with Kim Jong-un before September. But after Kim came out of seclusion, O was a member of the entourage in 25 percent of the outings.

A Unification Ministry official said the young ruler values the loyalty of the children of the partisan comrades of his grandfather. The personality cult of the Kim dynasty is a vital foundation of the North Korean leadership.

According to the ministry, Gen. Hwang Pyong-so, director of the General Political Bureau of the Army, accompanied Kim the most on outings last year. Of Kim’s 172 public activities, Hwang accompanied him on 126 of them. Choe accompanied him on 57.

In 2013, Kim attended 209 public events, and Choe was at 153 of them. Hwang was at 59.

Many of the officials who accompanied Kim in 2013 disappeared from his entourage in 2014 after the young ruler carried out a massive reshuffle.

Pak Tae-song and Jang Song-thaek each attended 52 public events with Kim in 2013, ranking the third on the list of top 10 officials who accompanied the young ruler, but they disappeared in the 2014 list.

Jang, the once powerful uncle of Kim, was executed in December 2013. 

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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