Extra! Korea

May 25, 2009

N. Korea may have conducted nuclear test, children required to memorize song about Kim Jong-il’s son

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 3:47 am

According to the BBC and Yonhap News, North Korea may have conducted a second nuclear test.
In possibly-related news, North Korean elementary school children have to memorize a song glorifying Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, Jong-un, or they aren’t allowed to go home.

May 22, 2009

Kim Jong-il gains more political power, yet recent actions may indicate coming power struggle

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 3:53 am

What is happening in the enigma that is North Korea? According to this article, North Korea has changed its constitution so that Kim Jong-il has, officially, even more power. This is mostly symbolic, since he already wields near-absolute power.

Since 1998, power in the North had been divided among the National Defense Commission, which Kim heads, the Supreme People’s Assembly, and standing committees. The constitutional revision heralds a new era in which Kim is officially recognized as supreme leader.

[ snip ]

The constitutional revision, however, is more a symbolic gesture that simply made powers already held by Kim. It means no fundamental changes in the North’s power structure.

After leader Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, North Korea revised its constitution in September 1998 to allow three bodies to share the governing of state affairs but gave real power to Kim Jong Il.

And yet, this article claims that recent actions, such as the launching of a missile and the arrests of two journalists, may be signs of a impending power struggle, due to the fact that Kim Jong-il may be physically ailing, and there is uncertainty about whether or not a chosen successor will be able to take the reigns of power.

In an interview with VOA on Wednesday, Scott Snyder, the director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy at the Asia Foundation, said the internal situation in North Korea is ominous and recent actions including the launch of a long-range rocket seem to have something to do with the succession question. There are opinions that for want of a properly prepared heir apparent, one of Kim’s sons will end up as a figurehead for one or the other power group in the North.

A senior South Korean government official on Thursday said, “We understand that recent acts by North Korea are not actually messages for the U.S., as we believed during the early days of the Obama administration.”

May 13, 2009

Kim Jong-il’s youngest son is becoming more visible, but he’s got a long way to go

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 2:05 pm

According to the Korea Herald and the Joongang Daily, the youngest son of Kim Jong-il, Jong-un, is becoming more visible, leading credence to the notion that his is Jong-il’s designated heir. However, he’s got a long way to go.
When Kim Il-sung named Jong-il as his successor, in 1974, Jong-il was 32. He held important party posts and played an important role in uniting the party around his father by purging officials who were members of rival factions. In 1994, Il-sung died and Jong-il became leader. By contrast, Jong-un is believed to be only 25 or 26, and has been named to a low-level post called “instructor” in the National Defense Commission. Because of his recent stroke, Jong-il probably only has a few more years left before he dies, in which case, Jong-un would be younger than his father was when he was chosen to be heir. Unless someone like Jang Song-taek takes him under his wing, I would expect him to have “a car accident,” or something like that, soon after his father passes away.

April 27, 2009

Kim Jong-il’s youngest son elevated to post in military body

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 6:43 am

The third son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been assigned to a post in the communist nation’s top military organization headed by Kim, apparently a sign of being groomed as the North’s next leader, Yonhap News Agency reported Sunday, quoting multiple sources privy to North Korea affairs.

[ snip ]

Sources noted that Jong-un’s course of “succession lessons” is different from that of his father, who started his political career in the Workers’ Party. They said the move shows the authority of the National Defense Commission headed by Kim under his military-first policy.

Kim Jong-il was tapped as successor at 32 by his father and the nation’s founder, Kim Il-sung, in a general meeting of the Workers’ Party in 1974. He took over after his father’s death in 1994.

[ snip ]

The 25-year-old is the youngest of Kim’s three sons. Jong-un was educated at the International School of Berne and is known to be a fan of NBA basketball. After returning to Pyongyang in his late teens, he has lived a reclusive life, and very little is known about his character.


Kim Jong Un speaks English, likes basketball — and is said to look and act just like his father.

[ snip ]

The eccentric leader has three known sons by two women. The oldest, Kim Jong Nam, was long considered his favorite — until he tried to sneak into Japan using a fake Dominican passport and visit Tokyo’s Disney resort in 2001.

The middle son, Kim Jong Chol, apparently has never been a favorite as a possible leader. Kim Jong Il’s former sushi chef says in a 2003 memoir that the leader considers his second son “girlish.”

But talk about the youngest son has been growing. On Sunday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Kim Jong Un was assigned to a low-level post at the defense commission, the top government body, several days before his father was reappointed as the commission’s chairman on April 9.

[ snip ]

South Korea’s Unification Ministry and the National Intelligence Service said they cannot confirm the report.

Little is known about Kim Jong Un. The former sushi chef, Kenji Fujimoto, says in his memoir that the son looks and acts just like his father.

The teen studied at the International School of Bern in Switzerland, a short walk from the North Korean embassy, where classes are taught in English and many students come from diplomatic families.

A recent article in the French-speaking weekly L’Hebdo described Kim Jong Un as a shy student enrolled under the name of Chol Pak, who enjoyed team sports like basketball, went skiing with friends on Fridays and admired Michael Jordan and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

“He had a lot of friends among the children of American diplomats,” the school’s past director, David Gatley, told L’Hebdo.

Kim Jong Il believes his youngest son has “charismatic leadership” like him, said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the security think tank Sejong Institute.

[ snip ]

But Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, disagreed, saying Kim Jong Il is believed to be focusing more on consolidating his support base rather than appointing his successor, which would quickly erode his power.


There’s a good Chosun Ilbo article about how Kim Jong-il’s eldest son, Jong-nam, fell from his father’s favor.
(Hat Tip to ROK Drop)

April 13, 2009

Super Junior’s Yesung confused with Kim Jong-il’s youngest son

Filed under: celebrities, Kim Jong-il, North Korea, schadenfreude moment — extrakorea @ 3:37 am

Here’s my schadenfreude moment of the week:

A member of the boy band Super Junior, Yesung, had his picture labeled by Swiss tabloid Blick as Kim Jong-il’s third and youngest son. The confusion came from the fact that Yesung’s real name is Kim Jong-un, the same as the dictator’s possible heir. (source)
Who are Super Junior? They’re a boy band and they suck. That’s all you need to know.

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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