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Rumors Spread of Kim Jong Un as NK`s Heir Apparent

Posted March. 02, 2009 06:39,   


Conservative newsletters in South Korea specializing in North Korean affairs yesterday said Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of the North’s supreme leader Kim Jong Il, is the heir apparent.

Rumors are also swirling that the son threw a party Feb. 16 for high-ranking military officials to mark his father’s 67th birthday.

With the communist country’s media also cultivating an atmosphere for a power transfer, all eyes are on whether the March 8 general elections of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly will confirm these reports.

▽ Spreading succession rumors

North Korea Democracy Network, a South Korean group, said in its newsletter “In & Out” that a North Korean source said, “I heard the security agency (for the Kim family) is preparing to establish Kim Jong Il’s successor.”

“(Koh Yong Hi, Kim’s third wife’s) second son Jong Un was chosen successor and conferred the title captain of the (North) Korean People’s Army.”

“I heard the news from a high-ranking official in South Hwanghae Province and almost all ranking officials in the North are aware of this.”

Citing North Korean sources, Cho Bong-hyeon, a researcher at Industrial Bank of Korea Research Institute in Seoul, said, “Kim Jong Un invited the top brass to his father’s birthday party Feb. 16.”

“His rating badge indicated he was a lieutenant general at the operations department of the (North) Korean People`s Army.”

Prior to these reports, Yeolin North Korea Broadcast, a South Korean shortwave radio broadcast, said in its Feb. 23 newsletter, “Ranking officials of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party understand that Kim Jong Il’s youngest son has been picked as his successor.”

Considering these reports, rumors on the heir apparent have spread in North Korea. That said, the possibility of outside reports spreading to the North cannot be ruled out, given that information on the North keeps circulating in and outside of the isolated country.

South Korea’s Yonhap News reported Jan. 15 that Kim Jong Un was selected as the heir apparent, and the Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun did the same Feb. 17. Some said, however, that North Korean authorities purposely released this information.

The South Korean government has been cautious about the rumors. Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said, “We have heard various rumors but nothing has confirmed so far.”

Officials at the National Intelligence Service in Seoul also said they will keep watching the situation in the North for the time being.

▽ Suspicious moves in the North

Unusual moves in the North, however, have prompted speculation that Pyongyang will soon announce the successor to Kim Jong Il, who is allegedly recovering from a stroke.

North Korean media have continuously emphasized the genealogy of the Kim Jong Il family, calling it the “pedigree of Mankyongdae and Mount Baekdu.” Stressing that the “Mankyongdae pedigree” has been maintained for three generations from Kim Hyong Jik to Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, to Kim Jong Il, the North’s official daily Rodong Shinmun said Thursday that the military-first policy must be further strengthened to make the country powerful.

Kim Jong Il’s flurry of official activity is also unusual. He appeared 15 times in public last month alone, the most since 1995. The national propaganda competition, which was first held in 1971 when Kim Jong II’s succession gained public consensus, was held Wednesday. The event was the fourth in the North’s history and the first since 2000.

Pyongyang has held a firm grip on its elite and people with sticks and carrots. “In & Out” said, “The North’s military imposed a drinking ban on soldiers in January and forced them to make written pledges.”

Certain military ranking officials were caught drinking and demoted, said the newsletter.

In a related move, the North’s National Security Agency has reportedly begun a sweeping inspection of its agents. With inflation and the suicide rate skyrocketing, the North Korean government is said to have allowed general markets to run instead of shutting them down early in the year to prevent public unrest.