North Korea is increasing the public exposure of Mr. Kim Jong Un, the third and youngest son of the country’s leader Kim Jong Il and his heir apparent, through the mass media. The process represents North Korea’s efforts to consolidate Mr. Kim Jong Un’s political standing and legitimacy.
On Oct. 5 the Korean Central News Agency reported that he accompanied his father together with military brass and inspected a drill of the No. 851 unit of the Korean People’s Army. Korean Central Television on the night of that day aired a still photograph of the two Kims and army officials.
The way he was introduced by the media hints that his rank in the ruling party is just below the six Presidium members of the Political Bureau. Rodong Shinmun, the party organ, on Oct. 6 carried the photograph and the KCNA article on Pages 1 and 2.
Citizens in Pyongyang have reportedly started talking about Mr. Kim Jon Un. According to Kyodo News, a woman employee of a restaurant, when asked about the fact that he becomes a third-generation leader by right of descent, said t there is a sense of stability because the country’s regime will continue as before. On Oct. 10, he, together with his father, observed a large-scale military parade held in the capital for the celebration of the party’s 65th anniversary.
He is now a member of the party’s Central Committee and a vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission. But he did not become a member of the party’s Political Bureau or the party’s Secretariat. Mr. Kim Jong Ill is apparently trying to solidify the dynastic succession by first strengthening his heir’s position in the military. The phrase “songun (military-first) politics” was added to the party platform, which was revised.
Mr. Kim Jong Ill spent some 20 years solidifying his position before he became the nation’s top leader. There is the possibility that Mr. Kim Jong Un will have to move up in less time because of his father’s health problems. Thus he may have a hard time gaining acceptance. Unless North Korea succeeds in economic reform and behaves in a manner acceptable to other members of the international community, Mr. Kim Jong Un’s and North Korea’s difficulty will only increase.