Kim Jong-Il has his successor
North Korea's ailing leader has chosen his youngest son -- who is just 26, attended a Swiss boarding school and reportedly admires basketball great Michael Jordan -- as heir to the family dynasty that rules the secretive state, South Korea's intelligence service told lawmakers in Seoul.
Kim Jong Un is the third son of Kim Jong Il, the "Dear Leader" who suffered a stroke last summer and who has since appeared thin and frail. He is the grandson of the late Kim Il Sung, the "Great Leader" and founding dictator of North Korea.
If Kim Jong Un does become the new leader -- and there are analysts who doubt the decision is final -- this second consecutive father-to-son handoff would be unique among nations that call themselves communist. There was no indication, however, that Kim Jong Il would be handing over power any time soon. ...
The younger Kim's name surfaced about four months ago as his father's likely successor, but it wasn't until after last week's underground nuclear test in the North that Kim Jong Il informed top officials in Pyongyang and diplomats in foreign missions that Jong Un would be his successor, intelligence officials told members of the National Assembly in Seoul.
One of those lawmakers, Hong Jung-wook, a member of the ruling Grand National Party, said that intelligence officials believe the recent spike in military and political tension on the Korean Peninsula is closely related to the transitional process now underway in Pyongyang. He said in an interview that the South Korean government has created a "special team" to analyze the succession.
"Kim Jong Un is very young, too young for a smooth transition to power," Hong said. "He seems to need support from the military and seems to be conforming to military preferences in his policy direction. We could interpret the recent developments -- the testing of a nuclear bomb and the testing of missiles -- as a way to consolidate power for the military and for Kim Jong Il's successor."
Kim Jong Il has asked officials in North Korea and diplomats overseas to pledge loyalty to his son, according to a statement issued Tuesday by Park Jie-won, a member of the National Assembly who serves on its intelligence committee.
Schoolchildren in Pyongyang have already begun singing the praises of Kim Jong Un, according to a report from Rescue the North Korean People, a relief group in Osaka, Japan, which has informants inside North Korea.
"That fact that schools are teaching students to sing such songs is tantamount to officially declaring the heir," the report said. "Elementary school children on a street corner in Pyongyang are singing a song about Gen. Kim Jong Un. They said they sing this song all day without doing any other regular classes."
Soldiers, too, are shouting new slogans, including, "With all our hearts, let's protect Kim Jong Un, the young general, the morning star general who inherits the bloodline of Paektu," the report said. ...
It has been state policy in North Korea since the 1950s to create cults of personality around the Kim family. Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were ascribed godlike powers and unlimited knowledge. The practice has been supported by relentless propaganda that dominates school curricula and by strict government control over access to foreign media or any outside information.
But outside of military outposts, the praise songs for Kim Jong Un have so far appear to have been limited to the capital, said Lee Young-hwa, head of the Osaka-based relief group.
"We haven't been able to confirm that this is happening at elementary schools nationally or at workplaces," Lee said. "It means that the military is trying very hard to take the lead in the race to put their favorite on the throne." ...
The WaPo explains why the other two sons weren't chosen. One dishonored and embarrassed his father trying to sneak into Japan to visit DisneyLand, and the other is seen as "too feminine." Kim Jong Un also seems to have health problems akin to his father. He has high blood pressure and diabetes.
But North Korea is supposed to be a Communist regime, and this move, as was Kim Jong-Il's father's move, makes North Korea look more like a monarchy. Developing a cult of personality around his son (as well as himself), endless propaganda about him, etc. It smacks of royalty, not communism.
The problem Kim Jong-Il has with this choice is his military. The country is starving and that doesn't just apply to the general populace but to the military, as well. A few years back the military nearly succeeded in a coup, and when word came down back in 2005-2006 that things had taken a turn for the worse in North Korea -- another famine -- Kim moved swiftly to ensure his military was fed to avoid a repeat of the previous coup attempt.
But will the military back the younger Kim? Possibly, but possibly not. If they feel that it's time for the Kim family to go on it's merry way to the seventh ring of Hell, little will help stop them. The military may think it can run the country better than the Kims could. They might be right. On the other hand, Kim Jong Un may take very good care of his military to ensure he keeps power. If he lets them flex their muscles, as his father did this past week, he may secure his hold on the power base of North Korea.