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Make Rule Changes, North Korea Prepares Future Plans Without Kim Jong Un? page all


PYONGYANG, KOMPAS.com – Few world leaders are monitored and shrouded in mystery like Kim Jong Un. Political and diplomatic intrigue has besieged the dictator, believed to be in his late 30s, since he took power in 2011.

The most frequent rumors were about his poor health.

His condition and day-to-day whereabouts were so opaque that when he disappeared for several weeks in 2020, speculation about his death ran rampant until he reappeared in public.

While Kim has proven rumors wrong so far, developments over the past year suggest that behind closed doors, North Korea may be preparing for the day when Kim Jong Un will actually leave according to reports. Insider.

Read also: US Urges North Korea to Stop Provoking and Accept Dialogue Offer

Organize without rules

There are currently no known succession rules in the hierarchy of North Korea’s ruling party, the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

As a result, analysts can only base predictions about who comes after Kim on the basis of previous transfers of power.

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The succession protocol is minimal in North Korea. In its 73-year history, only three leaders of one lineage have served.

Its first leader, Kim Il Sung, appointed his son, Kim Jong Il, as his successor in 1980, 14 years before his death in 1994.

Kim Jong Il actively avoided appointing a successor until just before his death.

Kim Jong Il finally appointed Kim Jong Un as his successor, when it became clear that there was little chance of a full recovery from the severe stroke he suffered in the summer of 2008.

Even so, it took two years for an official announcement, and Kim Jong Un was only the heir for a year before finally taking over the helm.

Despite his youth and inexperience, Kim Jong Un has a ruthless consolidated power.

In 2013, he executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for “anti-party actions” and “counter-revolutionaries.”

Jang was appointed a regent by Kim Jong Il. A North Korean defector said the influence Jang gained, made him a target for the younger Kim.

In 2017, his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur. Kim Jong Nam is the eldest son of Kim Jong Il and has been an outspoken critic of the regime.

Also read: Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, who was poisoned, is suspected of being a South Korean spy

There is no alternative

Kim Jong Un came to power at a much younger age than his father and grandfather when they took power and does not need to appoint a successor. He also actively avoided appointing the number two official.

“Kim Jong Un’s typical procedure is to let someone look like he’s number two for a year or two and then clean it up,” Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation, told Insider.

Purge sometimes meant re-education and reduction in rank and status rather than execution.

“He regularly does that because he doesn’t want anyone to come up with an alternative to him,” Bennett said of Kim’s purge.

“He wants to really be in control.”

But several decisions made over the past year suggest that leader Kim Jong Un and the WPK may be preparing someone to replace Kim.

The first is two articles of a series of rule changes instituted in January at the Eighth Party Congress.

Article 28 states that each member of the Politburo Presidium consisting of five people, the highest body of the WPK, can chair a meeting if it gets approval from the secretary general, namely Kim Jong Un. This essentially means Kim no longer has to oversee or even attend Presidium meetings.

However, the most notable change so far is Article 26, which creates a new position of “first secretary”. The position itself is not new. Kim Jong Un used it before he adopted “chairman” in 2016 and then “secretary general” in 2021.

Also read: List of North Korean Missile Tests Throughout 2021

Now, “first secretary” refers to the first deputy secretary general. This created a position similar to that of vice president, a revolutionary change as neither the WPK nor the ruling communist party had officially appointed a second person.

However, no one was appointed as the first secretary, and no one stated that the first secretary would automatically become the leader if the general secretary died.

“The regulations that apply here raise interesting questions,” said Bennett.

“Is number two clearly going to take over or will the senior members of the Politburo come together and make a choice?”

Kim Jong Un’s health remains a mystery. Not only has Kim disappeared from public view again for more than a month this year, but he’s also lost a lot of weight – as much as 44 pounds, according to intelligence sources.

The weight loss was so striking that a Pyongyang resident described Kim as “thin” on state television. Kim looked thinner at last month’s parade.

“The truth is we don’t know what happened to his health,” said Sue Mi Terry, North Korea and security expert in Northeast Asia.

“All we know is Kim’s health will be the most important wildcard event for North Korea and for North Korea’s stability.”

Read also: North Korea’s food crisis is getting worse, children and the elderly are at risk of starvation

North Korea already faces food shortages, floods and a difficult economy. The loss of Kim Jong Un in the midst of that challenge could destabilize conditions.

“This is a high-risk, high-impact scenario for North Korea, as he doesn’t have a successor as prepared as Kim Jong Il for 20 years,” said Terry, who is now director of Hyundai Motor’s Korea Foundation Center for History and Public Policy.

The biggest question, then, is who will replace Kim Jong Un if he dies or is unable to serve in the long term?

There is some speculation that, because Kim Jong Un’s children are too young, someone from the Politburo or the military could take the initiative and take over on their own.

“In the end, this is something very unknowable,” said Terry,

He noted that it was impossible to know if such a replacement was. The reason is, “when we judge something or someone, it means that Kim Jong Un himself will know it, and that person will be ‘lost’.”

“If someone had that kind of intention, they would lower their heads and act as if they didn’t,” Terry said.

Read also: Kim Jong Un’s younger brother, Kim Yo Jong, Considered an Arrogant Figure and Hated by North Korean Officials

Precedent shows Kim is unlikely to choose a successor. Because this could also spark rumors about his health and potentially undermine his power.

But many see his sister, Kim Yo Jong, as the most likely candidate. He is a member of the Kim family and has the complete trust of Kim Jong Un. He can also be counted on to be a guardian for Kim’s children.

Last month, Kim Yo Jong was promoted to the State Affairs Commission, the highest body of the North Korean government. He has also taken a central role in overseeing relations with South Korea.

“He’s probably the single most important person because (Kim) believes in him,” Terry said.

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