Kim Jong-il picks son as North Korea successor

The youngest son of Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea, was promoted to a military general on Sept. 27, a clear sign that he is to succeed his father as the country’s leader.

Kim Jong-un has, for his entire life, remained one of the most elusive people on the planet. Only one photograph of him has ever been released, and it was taken in his adolescent years. Even his age is unknown — he is believed to be about 27 or 28, although there is no way of proving the educated guesses.

“No one knows what he looks like, but it is certain that he indeed exists and is slated to be the next leader,” professor at Seoul National University Tae-Gyun Park said, according to ABC News.

The news of Kim Jong-un’s promotion came prior to a gathering of the ruling Workers’ Party in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Monday, Sept. 27. This seemingly sudden move by Kim Jong-il declaring his third and youngest as his heir is, by no means, a surprise to analysts or experts around the world.

In 2008, Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke, which made him consider succession. It was soon after this that he placed Kim Jong-un into the same position in which he began his political career. According to reports, his health is continuing to worsen.

Rumors surfaced in 2009 about Kim Jong-il’s absence from the public spotlight. Reports from undisclosed informants claimed that Kim Jong-il was suffering from pancreatic cancer. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the five-year survival rate of a pancreatic cancer is 5.5 percent, which would explain Kim Jong-il’s need to promote his son.

Daniel Pinkston, a senior analyst and expert at the International Crisis Group, found the idea of pancreatic cancer difficult to believe. He explained that the information was so delicate that any definitive diagnosis is “a little odd.”
“This kind of information would not be shared easily or casually. (But) it would explain a lot of things that may be going on internally: the rapidness of some of their actions over the past (year) or so, with the attempted satellite launch, nuclear test and missile tests,” Pinkston said, according to the Guardian.

Unfortunately, this will most likely not affect the long-term future of North Korea. With Kim Jong-un set to follow in his father’s footsteps, the control of North Korea will only change hands within the same family.

“When things really get tough — when the leader gets ill — it is the family that starts to circle the wagons,” an Alexandria-based analyst specializing in North Korean leadership Ken Gause said according to the Washington Post.

“We have seen this in Iraq, in the last years of the Saddam regime. It seems to me not an accident that the day before they make party appointments, they make the bloodline appointments,” Gause said. “That is a clear signal to what is happening here: the Kim family is still in control.”

GULA is an opinion writer.

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