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Group Leadership Likely to Lead North Korea: Experts

Posted May. 26, 2008 07:52,   


A recent report showed that more than half of the 22 Ph.D. researchers at the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis expect a form of group leadership will take place in North Korea after Kim Jong Il dies.

The majority of them said Kim’s second son Kim Jong Chul, 27, is the dictator’s favorite, but first son Kim Jong Nam, 37, and brother-in-law Chang Song Taek, 62, are thought to have a stronger power base for succession.

The U.S. government reportedly posted the report on North Korea’s succession on the Open Source Center, a government website to which only U.S. officials can have access on May 14.

This report, obtained by the Dong-A Ilbo through a high-ranking U.S. official, is an English translation of “The characteristics of Kim Jong Il’s successive regime in North Korea and the forecast of the U.S. policy adjustment,” written by Baek Seung-joo, leader of pending defense issues team at the institute upon Washington’s request.

The release of the report indicates that the U.S. government began to review North Korea’s succession issue amid recent improvements made in the U.S.-North Korea relationship along with the resolution of nuclear issues.

The report takes into consideration what are deemed the most important factors in the North Korean leadership succession -- whether Kim Jong Il is alive or not, the way he dies and Pyongyang’s power structure – to suggest six types of succession.

About 77 percent of the researchers said the North Korea’s dictatorship will come to an end after the current leader’s death. Ten researchers, or 45.5 percent, forecast that after Kim dies, a group leadership system will appear. Six researchers, or 27.3 percent, said that the group leadership system would come into play even before Kim dies.

As for the possible successor, 36.4 percent said Kim Jong Chul, 31.8 percent Kim Jong Nam, and 22.7 percent said Chang Song Taek.

However, the report said, “Given that Kim Jong Il succeeded Kim Il Sung, Chang Song Taek or Kim Jong Nam who are superior to Kim Jong Chul in their power base, policy-making abilities and personal qualification are more likely to succeed.

It also predicted that if a succession takes place within five years, Chang Song Taek or Kim Jong Nam is likely to lead the regime, but if it happens in five years, Kim Jong Chul and 25-year-old Kim Jong Un, the leader’s third son, are more likely to assume power.

kyle@donga.com triplets@donga.com