Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military


Kim Jong-un (Kim Jong Woon) - Leadership Succession
"The Great Successor"

Frequent leadership changes within the North Korean military caused some to question if the Kim Jong Un regime is unstable. Pyongyangs state-run news agency on 26 June 2014 referred to Hyon Yong Chol as minister of the Peoples Armed Forces, replacing Jang Jong Nam, who held the position since May 2013. This was the fourth time the holder of this position has been changed since Kim assumed power at the end of 2011. Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, told VOA such frequent leadership shake-ups were a change from his father, Kim Jong Il, who replaced his defense minister only three times during his 17 years in control. Kim Jong Un has made numerous changes to his government since becoming North Korea's supreme leader in 2011. The biggest took place in 2013 when he had his uncle and second in command, Jang Song Thaek, executed.

North Korea proclaimed the beginning of the Kim Jong Un era on Thursday 22 December 2011, describing him as the "successor" of the nation's revolutionary undertakings "and leader of its people." Kim Jong Un, the youngest of Kim Jong-il's three sons, holds the military rank of a four-star general, despite having little military experience and being in his late 20s. In a dispatch late Saturday 23 December 2011, the official Korean Central News Agency called General Kim the "supreme leader of the revolutionary armed forces." Earlier Saturday, KCNA hailed Mr. Kim as "supreme commander" - the first use of that title, also used by his late father. And on Monday 22 December 2011, the Communist Party's Rodong Sinmun referred to Kim Jong Un as leader of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, a post that gave Kim Jong Un power over one of the country's highest decision-making bodies.

Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of Kim Jong Il, was promoted to the Workers' Party Central Committee and the Party's Central Military Commission at a party convention in September 2010, and to the rank of four-star general of the Korean People's Army the day before, putting him in line to succeed his father. The election of Kim Jong-un as one of the two Vice-Chairmen of the NDC of the State and the CMC of the party clearly placed him in a position to succeed his father as the ruler of North Korea.

On 25 June 2010 the official Korean Central News Agency reported that the Korean Workers' Party would convene a meeting in early September 2010 to elect its "highest leading body". This was generally viewed as a step toward holding a Party Congress [which had not been convened since 1980], which could herald a transfer of power designating leader Kim Jong Il's third son, Kim Jong Un, as his successor.




In April 2010 Mainichi printed a photo of a young man [suspected of being] Kim Jong-un accompanying North Korea's "Dear Leader" on a visit to a steel mill in North Hamgyong Province. But this photograph does not resemble subsequent portraits. Kim Jong-un was also reported to have organised the fireworks display along the Taedong River in Pyongyang marking the 98th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the nation and Kim Jong-il's father.

Yonhap news agency reported 26 April 2009 that Kim Jong-il's youngest son, 26-year-old Kim Jong Un, took up a low-level post at the National Defense Commission a few days before the Parliament reappointed Kim Jong-il as the commission's chairman on 09 April 2009. Kim Jong-un was expected to assume higher-level Defense Commission posts in preparation to succeed his father.

On 15 January 2009 South Korean news agency Yonhap reported North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had tapped his third son to be his successor and sent his nomination to the leadership of the ruling party. The reportedly ailing Kim Jong-il "delivered a directive around January 8 that he has named [Kim] Jong-un as his successor to the leadership of the Workers' Party," Yonhap quoted a well-informed source as saying on condition of anonymity. Yonhap said Jong-un's nomination was completely unexpected in North Korea, even among the Worker's Party leadership, and was most likely driven by Kim Jong-il's rapidly deteriorating health.

Kim Jong-un was born in 1983 to Kim Jong-il's third wife, Ko Yong-hi, who died of breast cancer at the age of 51 in 2004. According to Yonhap, the youngest of Kim's three sons, Jong-un was educated at the International School of Berne and is a fan of NBA basketball.

On 17 January 2009 a source inside the ROK Ministry of Unification (MoU) stated "The succession issue generates diverse rumors, but nothing is confirmed. We have not heard of an instruction appointing Jong Woon as successor to Kim Jong Il being transmitted to the Guidance Department of the Party." Kim Jong Il's second son, Jong Cheol, who was said at one stage to be suffering from narcotics addition, in addition to abnormal testosterone levels and other undesirable health conditions, was allegedly being supported in the succession battle by the First Vice Directors of the Guidance Department Lee Jeh Gang and Lee Yong Cheol. Some reports claim that Jong Woon has serious hypertension and diabetes.

Kim Jong-chul's younger brother Kim Jong-un / Kim Jong-woong / Kim Jung-woon was apparently born in the 1983 to 1985 timeframe, though accounts are in conflict. Indeed, as of May 2001 the BBC was unaware of the fact of the existence of this individual. Kim Jong-Ils youngest son also may be in the running for succession, though Kim Jong-chul would normally be favored because he is the elder.

Writing under his pen name, Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese sushi chef who worked for Kim Jong-il for 13 years wrote a best-selling memoir, "I Was Kim Jong Il's Cook." Specialists following North Korea characterize Fujimoto's accounts as being credible. According to one account, "Fujimoto said, Kim would often bemoan that Kim Jong Chul, his 23-year old son, would never rule because he had turned out to be "like a girl." Fujimoto said Kim doted on his youngest son -- Kim Jong Woon, [then] 18, who looks like the North Korean leader." According to one rumor, Koh Yong Hee had ordered the Workers Party and high officials to call Jong-Woon the "Morning Star King".

In August 2004, international speculation regarding the North Korean succession increased due to reports in the South Korean press that Koh Yong Hee had died. Her favored position with Kim Jong-il, and her status among the North Korean armed forces had previously seemed to constitute tools to help entrench the authority and ensure the succession of one of her Kim Jong-il-sired sons - Kim Jong Chol and Kim Kong Woon. However, if reports of her death are true, some speculate that not only will this process be much more difficult, it may even open an opportunity for the shamed Kim Jong Nam to reassert his claim on the future leadership.

Chosun Ilbo reported 29 August 2013 that Kim Jong-un's ex-girlfriend was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad on Aug. 20. Singer Hyon Song-wol, along with Mun Kyong-jin, head of the Unhasu Orchestra, were arrested 17 August 2013 for violating North Korean laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later. Other victims members of the Unhasu Orchestra as well as singers, musicians and dancers with the Wangjaesan Light Music Band. They were accused of videotaping themselves having sex and selling the videos. The tapes had apparently gone on sale in China as well. Some allegedly had Bibles in their possession, and all were treated as political dissidents. Kim met Hyon about a decade earlier, before either of them was married. He was later ordered to break off the relationship by his father Kim Jong-il, and she married a soldier. Since then there have been rumors that the two were having an affair. Kim's wife Ri Sol-ju was also a member of the Unhasu Orchestra before she married him. Whether she had any hand in the executions is unclear.




NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list