North Korea’s Kim Jong-il promotes son and sister
Promotions of dictator’s son Kim Jong-un and sister Kim Kyong-hui cloud the line of succession
North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-il has set up a potentially messy succession struggle after promoting both his son Kim Jong-un and his sister Kim Kyong-hui to the rank of four star general in the country's powerful army.
It is the first time North Korea's state media has even mentioned Kim Jong Un, who until 1998 attended a Swiss boarding school, where classmates remember he was a fan of basketball and Hollywood action man Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The announcement was made at the start of the biggest meeting of the ruling Workers' Party for 30 years and has widely been seen as the beginning of manoeuvres by Kim Jong-il to ensure leadership of North Korea stays in the family. There will very likely be a further announcement appointing Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be around 27 years old, to a senior Workers' Party post during the convention.
Kim Jong-il, 68, is in poor health and is thought to have suffered a series of strokes and possibly pancreatic cancer. A clear successor is therefore needed to ensure a smooth transition when the 'Dear Leader' dies.
But the promotion of Kim Jong-il's sister has muddied the waters. Kim Kyong-hui, 64, is married to Jang Song-taek, who is believed by many to be the second most powerful man in North Korea. She heads the Hermit State's light industries, while he is deputy chairman of the National Defence Commission, the powerful body that Kim Jong-il heads, and as such has been spoken about as a possible successor to the president.
Some analysts believe that Kim Kyong-hui could be a caretaker ruler in the event that Kim Jong-il dies before his son is ready to take over. The dictator reportedly once told Party officials: "Kim Kyong-hui is myself. The words of Kim Kyong-hui are my words." But, as Nicholas Eberstadt, political economist and Korea expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, tells the Wall Street Journal, the dictator has placed his son in a potential rivalry with his sister and brother-in-law.
Kim Jong-il himself had decades to prepare to take over from his father, Kim Il-sung, and resisted efforts by the so-called 'Great Leader' to promote his brother to any positions that might threaten him.
"He's doing something for his son that he wouldn't have wanted for himself," says Eberstadt. "This makes the whole outlook for decision-making, leadership and the rest a bit cloudy."
A sentiment that any observer of the secretive North Korean dictatorship can agree with. ·
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