Path of succession in North growing clearer by the day

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Path of succession in North growing clearer by the day

Kim Jong-eun, the third son of Kim Jong-il and heir apparent to the North Korean throne, is working at a deputy director level at the ruling Workers’ Party, according to data obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

The information was included in a South Korean government report submitted to Grand National Party lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun, who is also a member of a National Assembly standing committee on foreign affairs and unification. Yoon received the information on the condition that it would not be discussed publicly during the ongoing National Assembly audits of South Korean government agencies.

The name of the son had previously been known as Kim Jong-un, but South Korean intelligence recently confirmed the correct spelling to be Kim Jong-eun. Late last month, a photograph of a North Korean propaganda poster showed the name spelled as Kim Jong-eun in Korean.

The report yesterday also claimed that Kim Jong-eun’s formal succession would take place between 2010 and 2012. According to the report, the junior Kim was born in 1984 and graduated from Kim Il Sung National War College, named after the former North Korean leader and father of Kim Jong-il. The college, located in Pyongyang, is North Korea’s top military academy that churns out leading military officers. According to the South Korean file, Kim Jong-eun didn’t attend the military school on a full-time basis, but instead received separate one-on-one tutorials from professors and military officials who visited him. The report noted that the South Korean intelligence community has not been able to confirm some media reports that Kim Jong-eun also graduated from Kim Il Sung University. According to the government report, Kim Jong-eun has not served in the North Korean military. Kim Jong-il also didn’t serve in the armed forces.

Little had been known about Kim Jong-eun, who is the second son of Kim Jong-il’s third wife, Ko Yong-hee. There have been conflicting reports about Jong-eun’s academic career, with some arguing that he had attended the International School of Berne in Switzerland under a pseudonym and others charging that Jong-eun has never been outside North Korea.

Kenji Fujimoto, former personal chef of Kim Jong-il, offered some details about the secretive Kim family’s background in his memoir published in 2003. In a Time magazine article dated June 1 this year, Fujimoto called Jong-eun “a chip off the old block, a spitting image of his father in terms of face, body shape and personality.”

The article quoted Fujimoto’s book as saying Jong-eun is the favorite of Kim Jong-il because of his “take-charge” personality. The succession question was raised last year when Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered a stroke. Experts have also linked the North’s nuclear test in May to succession, believing the test was an attempt to prove the regime’s unity with the powerful military. In North Korea, backing from the military is considered a must for transfer of leadership.

The National Intelligence Service notified lawmakers on a National Assembly intelligence committee that North Koreans have begun making pledges of loyalty to Kim Jong-eun.

By Lee Young-jong []

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