Kim Jong Il’s son named to more se­nior po­si­tions

Los Angeles Times - - 9• 29•10 - John M. Glionna re­port­ing from seoul Bar­bara Demick re­port­ing from washington john.glionna@latimes.com bar­bara.demick @latimes.com Ethan Kim in The Times’ Seoul Bureau con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.

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