Extra! Korea

March 23, 2009

Is frail-looking Kim Jong-il sicker than previously thought?

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea, politics, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 1:48 pm

Trying to imagine Kim Jong-il without his potbelly is like trying to picture Hitler without his cropped mustache or Osama Bin Laden without his beard, but recent photos of him, released by North Korea last Friday and appearing in a Chosun Ilbo gallery (courtesy of Korea Beat), have the world’s third-worst dictator looking gaunt within his Dr. Evil suit. Even though it’s widely believed that he recently suffered a stroke, he seems to be even sicker than previously thought.
This has raised the issue of what might happen in the event of his death. It has been reported that his youngest son, Jong-un, was being groomed to be the heir apparent. However, during recent North Korea’s recent “elections” he did not become part of the Supreme People’s Assembly, which would have been a logical first step. Andrei Lankov, an expert on Korea (read his articles here) had cautioned us not to jump to conclusions:

“[S]ome [past reports] have mentioned Kim Jong-il’s first son; they mentioned his second son; they also mentioned his brother-in-law; they mentioned his wife. There have been many rumors over the years, beginning probably in the mid-1990s. Every time, it was proven that these rumors were unfounded.”


If Jong-un has been deemed not ready to be take the reigns of power, either because he is too young or other reasons, then who would be likely to control North Korea in the event of Kim Jong-il’s death? There has been evidence that while he was recovering from his stroke, his brother-in-law, Jang Song-taek, would serve as regent and guardian of the younger Kim until he had reached sufficient maturity. Incidentally, the younger sister of Kim Jong-il to whom Jang is married to, Kim Kyong-hui, appears to be in critical condition.

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