What Happens Next in North Korea?

The Great Successor, Kim Jung-Un

With news of Kim Jong-il’s passing today, discussion is rife on the blogosphere about what will happen next in North Korea. It is assumed that heir apparent, 28-year-old Kim Jong-un will take the helm of the country under the guidance of his father’s advisors. He was reportedly being groomed for succession by Jang Song-taek. Jang is the late Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law. In 2010, Jang Song-taek was promoted to the rank of vice chairman of the National Defence Commission, the second highest military position in the country. It was speculated that this was done to help with the eventual succession of Kim Jung-un in the event of Kim Jong-il’s death.

The Great Successor, Kim Jung-Un

Kim Jong-un was named the “Great Successor” by Pyongyang’s state news agency on Monday. If the Junior Kim ascends to the throne of the Kim dynasty, it will be the second father to son power transfer in the communist state’s history. Kim Jung-un’s former title was vice-chairman of the central military commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea. He is also affectionately known as “Brilliant Comrade.” Both titles were bestowed upon him in 2009 after Kim Jong Il’s stroke.  The name changes draw parallels to his father, who took on the title of “Dear Leader” after Kim Il-Sung – the Great Leader died of a heart attack in 1994.

Kim Jong-un’s lack of experience means it is likely that he will take on more of a superficial role and have less overall control over the country than his father. The younger Kim first gained international attention after being named his father’s heir apparent in 2009 after the elder Kim suffered a stroke. Before then, outside observers hadn’t heard much at all about Kim Jong-Il’s 3rd youngest son.

It was previously thought that Kim Jong-Il’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam would lead the country after his father’s death. That was until Kim Jong-nam apparently fell out of favor with his father. It has been widely suggested that his high rolling lifestyle in Macau and his embarrassing arrest in Japan for entering on a fake Dominican passport, reportedly to see Disney World, contributed to him losing out on the position.

For the sake of clarity, here is a partial Kim-clan family tree that was posted today over at North Korea Leadership Watch.

The Kim Family Tree

The real power behind Kim Jong-un is likely to lie within the military and those that were close to Kim Jong-il. The graphic below shows the upper echelons of the North Korean leadership. This was originally posted by the Chosun Ilbo in 2009. I found it tonight via ROK Drop. ROK Drop also posted another piece tonight about this graphic.

It is likely that these men hold the key to the success or failure of Kim Jong-un as a leader. They are the king makers in North Korea. They can make or break this new “leader”. Even though Kim Jong-un has been named the “Great Successor”, there are many uncertainties in his future, the future of North Korea, and the future of the Korean peninsula.These men and the people of North Korea will hold the answer as to how great of a successor Kim Jong-un turns out to be. I hope they choose what’s best for their country and the world.

Kim Jong-Il's Henchmen


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