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`N. Korea Could Announce New Leader in Editorial`

Posted November. 22, 2008 09:31,   


North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party has reportedly begun writing a joint New Year’s Day editorial, drawing attention to whether the country’s allegedly ailing leader will mention his successor in the editorial.

Another matter of interest is Pyongyang’s messages to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

“The Worker’s Party is collectively preparing an editorial,” a government official in Seoul said yesterday. “The editorial will come out amid rumors on the failing health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the election of a new U.S. president, and North Korea’s hard-line stance toward the South. So, all eyes are on the editorial’s content.”

A South Korean intelligence official also said the North is working on the editorial, quoting a businessman who returned from the North after meeting a high-ranking member of the Workers’ Party.

The editorial is North Korea’s official publication that bears significance along with the writings of the North’s top leaders, such as “Selected Masterpieces of Kim Jong Il.” It lays out the New Year’s policy directions of both Kim and the Workers’ Party on internal and foreign affairs.

Because the writing starts with opinion-gathering from officials and ends with approval from high-ranking officials including Kim, the process normally starts in November.

On the possible content of the editorial, Jeong Seong-jang, a researcher on inter-Korean relations at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said, “The editorial is likely to mention Pyongyang’s principled stand to give room for the ailing Kim to prepare for contingencies.”

In other words, the editorial will stress the need for continuous revolution and the role of the generation born after the Korean War to legitimize the power transfer from Kim to his sons.

On the contrary, Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said, “If Kim is not in serious condition, the editorial will avoid expressions that invite a power struggle and internal division.”

After new presidents were elected in the United States in both 1993 and 2001, the North’s New Year’s speeches and joint editorials failed to directly mention the United States. When both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were reelected, however, Pyongyang criticized Washington for having a policy to “squash North Korea” and a “conspiracy against North Korea.”

This time, however, Pyongyang is likely to send a message through the editorial of direct dialogue with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who wants direct talks with the North.

“The editorial will send a kind of courtship message to Washington that indicates Pyongyang is ready to talk,” said Kim Yong-hyeong, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.

Though whether the North will cut off overland passage through the inter-Korean border next month is unclear, Pyongyang will likely to step up its offensive against Seoul through the editorial. When inter-Korean relations became strained after the Kim Young-sam administration was inaugurated in 1993, the North denounced the South and passed the responsibility for soured relations to Seoul in its New Year’s speeches and editorials from 1994.