Recent signs indicate that further turbulence is expected when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il hands the reins of power to his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, a high-ranking North Korean defector said Thursday.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Kim Kwang Jin, a former banker in North Korea who defected with his family in 2003, said the hermit regime’s recent attacks, including the fatal sinking of a South Korean naval ship and the shelling of a South Korean island, show the North’s “cycle of provocation is getting shorter and more aggressive, offensive and dangerous.”
Kim said that, with a dead-end economy and a history of famine, the North is having difficulty justifying a succession and using the provocations to divert the public’s attention from internal discontent to outside “enemies.”
Kim, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said Kim Jong Il’s reported bad health is another important factor in the acceleration of the succession process.
“It took more than 20 years for Kim Jong Il to consolidate the power and to be groomed as the leader of North Korea” while his father Kim Il Sung was alive, Kim said.
Kim Jong Un will have much less time to establish his leadership in his father’s presence, he added.
During the Third Party Representatives’ Conference last September, Kim said that Kim Jong Un was handed a newly created position — vice chairman of the central military commission — to make him second-in-command over the military behind his father.
The Korean Workers’ Party also added another provision to its charter stating that the chairman of the general secretary of the Korean People’s Party also serves as chairman of the military commission, he said, meaning Kim Jong Un is next in line to be in charge of both the party and military immediately upon his father’s death.
Kim also pointed out that recent media reports say the regime has lost control over Kim Jong Il’s closest relatives, saying, “the grip of the regime is loosening.” Kim Jong Il’s eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, is known to have openly criticized his father’s regime.
“Will the succession succeed this time? My answer is no,” Kim said.
Kim, a graduate of Kim Il Sung University who was also a lecturer at Pyongyang Computer College before entering the financial sector, said there were several scenarios that could unfold for the isolated regime once Kim Jong Il dies.
If the elder Kim passes away before his heir can consolidate power, for example, it is possible an individual or collective regency could be established to assume control of the nation. If this fails, a military coup could take place, Kim said.
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