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Steps Being Taken to Facilitate NK Power Shift

Posted April. 08, 2009 06:10,   


North Korea will convene the first meeting of its 12th Supreme People’s Assembly tomorrow four days after launching its long-range rocket.

Analysts say Pyongyang pushed ahead with the launch despite global criticism to mark the beginning of leader Kim Jong Il’s third term and internally consolidate the power structure to hand over the reins to Kim’s heir.

For this reason, attention is on how the North’s power structure will change at the upcoming rubber-stamp parliamentary session.

Watchers say Pyongyang will seek to reinforce its military rule by transforming the National Defense Commission into a standing organization. It will also draft a bill to train Kim’s third son Jong Un, who is rumored to be the heir apparent, as successor to the commission.

▽ Standing Nat’l Defense Commission

An informed source in Beijing well versed in North Korean affairs said, “Chances are high that the first meeting of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly will seek legislation and an organizational reshuffle to change the non-standing National Defense Commission into a standing organization and the centerpiece of the regime.”

The commission is a non-standing body comprising the chairman, vice chairmen, members and secretariat that takes charge of administration and protocol. The commission is second only to the Workers’ Party in the hierarchy, but analysts say Pyongyang needs to change it into a standing organization to strengthen its power.

If the commission’s status is enhanced through legislation, its organization will also likely be beefed up. Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hyong Jun and Gen. O Kuk Ryol are considered leading candidates for vice chairman, while several other elite bureaucrats from the Workers’ Party and the Cabinet will also vie. In this case, Jang Song Taek, the party’s director for administration and Kim’s confidant and brother-in-law, could also be named a vice chairman.

Of course, who will succeed Kim Jong Il is also a major item of interest. An informed source on North Korea said, “While Kim himself underwent long training within the Workers’ Party after being named heir apparent, his third son Jong Un, who is rumored to be his successor, will take such training at the National Defense Commission, whose authority and status will be enhanced.”

Korean and Japanese media also reported that Kim Jong Un has been designated successor, and news has spread to the Workers’ Party and the military accordingly. No official confirmation on this has yet to come, however.

“Since North Korean leader Kim has always been accompanied by Jong Un whenever inspecting military units since late last year, military insiders have speculated who his successor is,” the source said.

▽ Move into Gov’t Building 3

Sources on North Korean affairs said the commission is also relocating to Government Building 3 in Pyongyang, which is packed with key organizations of the Workers’ Party. Commission departments have moved into the building while those of the party left early to late last month. Jong Un neither is a member of the North Korean parliament nor holds a known official title, but his office will reportedly be set up at the commission in the building.

On the relocation of the commission in the building, another informed source said new license plates with numbers beginning with “03” have emerged on Pyongyang streets. License plate numbers of vehicles running in Pyongyang include “Pyongyang 01 (Workers’ Party)," “Pyongyang 02 (Government Complex 2)," and “Pyongyang 7 (special agencies).”

License plate numbers with “Pyongyang 03” are reserved for vehicles for officials named to posts at the “standing” National Defense Commission, according to sources.

▽ Top secret

Informed sources say chances are high that the North has not informed China of its power reshuffle, focusing on the transformation of the commission and raising of the body’s status. This is because Beijing seeks to lead Pyongyang to denuclearization and opening, and would not welcome a move to reinforce “strong military rule.”