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Hyon Emerging as Potential Successor to Kim Jong Il

Posted September. 18, 2008 07:00,   


Close aides to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il are under closer scrutiny in the wake of the reclusive leader’s alleged health problems. One of them is General Hyon Chol Hae of the (North) Korean People’s Army, who frequently accompanies Kim at public events.

A South Korean Unification Ministry analysis on North Korean news reports released yesterday said Hyon has been seen with Kim at the leader’s public appearances over the past two years. Hyon appeared 42 times with Kim in 2006, 30 last year and 32 this year until Kim disappeared from the public eye Aug. 14.

Hyon’s closeness to Kim is fueling speculation over his role and influence in the North’s power elite.

North Korean media has reported Kim stressing his state goals to his people while visiting places across the country. Kim has also had his close confidants follow him to induce a loyalty competition.

The supreme leader’s hands-on guidance and inspection of his “military-first” policy and economic reconstruction plans by visiting military units and economic facilities are a unique way that the North Korean government rules the impoverished country.

Kim made 75 public appearances this year until he allegedly collapsed from a stroke. He made 42 visits to military facilities and 19 to economic facilities and traveled abroad five times. Since North Korea increased its propaganda campaign against South Korea at the end of March, he has frequently visited military units.

Twenty-eight high-ranking officials accompanied Kim this year, including Hyon; General Ri Myong Su (29 times); Kim Ki Nam, secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party (22); Pak Nam Gi, director of the committee (10); Kim Kyok Sik, chief of the general staff of the Korean People’s Army (seven); and Pak Do Chun, secretary of the party’s committee in Chagang Province (seven).

Ri and Hyon have been with the North Korean leader since 2006. Kim Ki Nam has made frequent appearances with Kim Jong Il since last year.

According a 2007 ministry report on North Korea’s leading figures, Hyon is deputy director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army and senior member of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party. He is also a member of the North Korean parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Born in 1934, Hyon graduated from Mangyongdae Revolutionary School and Kim Il Sung University and later studied a technical college in Romania. He escorted Kim Il Sung, then supreme commander of the North Korean People’s Army, in the Korean War.

Known to be reserved, Hyon is reportedly deeply loyal to Kim Jong Il.

He is also said to exert his strong leadership over elites in the military. For this reason, the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul says Hyon is the likely candidate to succeed Kim if the North Korean leader falls ill or dies.