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Why Is N. Korea Silent Over Heir Apparent’s Mother?

Posted October. 20, 2010 11:40,   


North Korea has remained silent over the late mother of its heir apparent Kim Jong Un despite his appointment as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the North`s ruling Workers` Party.

Baek Seung-joo, director of the North Korean Military Research Division of the Center for Security and Strategy under the (South) Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, cited the large-scale idolization campaign that began in 1974, when Kim Jong Il was officially named to succeed his father Kim Il Sung.

Baek said the 1974 campaign is in stark contrast to the silence over Kim Jong Un’s late mother Koh Young-hee, who died in 2004.

After his appointment as his father’s successor, Kim Jong Il began an idolization campaign for his mother, Kim Jong Suk, to solidify his grip on power. Based on his mother’s participation in guerrilla warfare against Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, Kim Jong Il called her “the heroine of the anti-Japanese struggle” and “mother of the revolution” and named districts and universities after her.

Though the North Korean leadership has been enthusiastically praising Kim Jong Un since last year, it has not mentioned his mother’s name internally or externally even after he first appeared in public Sept. 28.

Analysts say Pyongyang finds it difficult to idolize Koh because she was Kim Jong Il’s second mistress, unlike his mother who was the first wife of Kim Il Sung. Others downplay this theory, however, saying Koh could be idolized as Kim Jong Il’s legitimate wife because his official wife, Kim Young Sook, failed to give him a son, while Song Hye Rim, the mother of his eldest son Kim Jong Nam, was only a mistress.

Speculation also has it that the heir apparent’s mother was not Koh but Kim Ok, the North Korean leader’s third mistress. Critics say this is a far-fetched argument, however, because Koh is confirmed to have reared the leader’s second son, Kim Jong Chol, as Kim Jong Un’s blood brother.

Cheong Seong-chang, senior research fellow at the state-funded Sejong Institute in Seoul, said, “It could be that the North Korean leadership didn’t have enough time for Kim Jong Un’s mother because it had to hurriedly idolize him.”

Predicting Pyongyang will begin mentioning Koh late this year or early next year, Cheong said the idolization process of Kim Jong Un had to precede his mother’s because North Koreans were unaware of who he is. In the 1970s, they knew Kim Jong Suk and Kim Jong Il well.