Kim Jong Il’s son named to more senior positions
Kim Jong Il’s youngest son was named to senior positions within the ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday, another sign from the reclusive state that the mysterious twentysomething will soon succeed his father as the next leader of North Korea.
North Korea’s state-controlled news agency reported that Kim Jong Eun was named to the party’s Central Committee, and he also was appointed vice chairman of the military committee. The North Koreans appeared to be following a template from 1980, the last time the secretive regime held a major party congress and elected Kim Jong Il to virtually the same positions to groom him as successor to his father, North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
But Kim Jong Eun’s ascent through the ranks is happening more quickly, the haste necessitated by the poor health of his 68-yearold father, who has diabetes and a kidney ailment. Rumors of a power handoff have circulated since the elder Kim apparently suffered a stroke in 2008.
On Monday, the youngest Kim, believed to be 27 and thought to have attended school in Switzerland, was named a four-star general at the nation’s biggest political convention in 30 years, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
Until then, his name had never appeared in the North Korean news media, although party propaganda has been trumpeting the need for a 21st century leader “who is young and vibrant and full of spirit.” It was unclear whether the younger Kim made a public appearance Tuesday.
The latest political appointment should give Kim Jong Eun a base both within the military and the ruling party. Kim Jong Il’s fiery and energetic sister, Kim Kyong Hui, 64, who is believed to be the leader’s closest confidant, was also given the rank of general and named to the Central Committee.
Analysts say she will be expected to act as a regent to the younger Kim, along with her husband, Jang Song Taek, the most powerful man in the country after Kim Jong Il.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told reporters in Washington that the Obama administration was closely monitoring events in Pyongyang.
“We know remarkably little about Kim Jong Il’s youngest son,” he said. “Recently, we’ve done a careful look at what we think we’ve known and compared that with predictions associated with North Korean developments, and it is interesting and cautionary to see how wrong we’ve been in the past.”
Still, many North Korea watchers are warning of a potential power struggle when Kim Jong Il dies. “It’s the biggest soap opera since ‘Dallas,’ ” said Kongdan Oh at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Va.